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Saint Lucia

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution states “a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of” freedom of conscience, including of thought and religion, and in the manifestation and propagation of religion or belief through practice, worship, teaching, and observance. It protects individuals’ rights to change their religion and prohibits religious instruction without consent in schools, prisons, and military service. A blasphemy law is not enforced.

The Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government is responsible for religious affairs, implements the government’s policy on faith-based organizations, and meets regularly with religious groups to address their concerns. The government requires religious groups to register with the ministry if their membership exceeds 250 individuals. To register, groups must provide contact information, their establishment date and history, declaration of belief, number of members, location of meeting place, and income sources. The government “incorporates” registered groups, which are eligible to receive associated benefits, while it treats unregistered groups as for-profit organizations for taxation purposes. After the religious group registers with the ministry, it may apply for concessions, including duty-free import privileges, tax benefits, and exemption from some labor requirements. Formal government registration also allows registered religious groups to legally register marriages officiated by religious leaders.

Ministry of Education regulations require the vaccination of all schoolchildren, regardless of religious beliefs, before they enter public or private school. The public school curriculum includes religious studies; the Ministry of Education does not require students to participate in these classes. The classes familiarize students with the core beliefs of world religions rather than promoting the adoption of any particular faith. The constitution grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain schools and provide religious instruction at their own expense. The Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Anglican Churches each sponsor private schools, where they teach their respective religious beliefs to students. The government provides approximately 50 percent of the funding for these schools but does not cover expenses for classes on religion. All students may attend private religious schools regardless of belief or nonbelief.

The government’s registration policy defines the process of obtaining work and labor permits for missionaries. Immigration authorities grant work permits for individuals entering the country to conduct missionary work. As long as an individual is law abiding, there are no restrictions on any category of foreign missionaries.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

An imam with the Islamic Association said the association continued to experience delays in obtaining government approval for its registration application. Formal government registration would extend to the association equivalent legal authorities extended to other faiths, such as the right to register marriages performed in a mosque. He said that, because the group remained unregistered, newlywed community members had to pay a lawyer to legally register marriages with the government. The imam said the Islamic Association began the registration process in 2018 but stated “bureaucratic lethargy” was the key reason registration had not yet been granted. A government official said that for most applications, the most time consuming part of the process was verifying anti-money laundering compliance through the Financial Action Task Force, a process that could take up to two years.

A representative of the Jewish community said it had requested the government lower the community registration threshold to 200 members. He said the government had previously revised the threshold downward from 500 to 250.

The Rastafarian community again stated officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government engaged in constructive dialogue with their community leaders and outreach with the broader Rastafarian community. They said the primary issue discussed was encouraging the government to legalize marijuana for religious purposes. In July the government established a commission to develop recommendations regarding possible steps towards legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. The commission’s mandate focused on the commercial benefits of cannabis production. According to a government official, the commission was required as part of the public consultations needed to amend the constitution, but the Rastafarian community said the government was using the commission to delay making a decision on decriminalization or legalization until after the next parliamentary election in 2021. Composed primarily of government officials but also including a representative from the Rastafarian community, the commission’s inaugural meeting was in October.

Rastafarian community representatives reported their reluctance to use marijuana for religious purposes because marijuana use was illegal and subject to punitive fines. Rastafarians said during the year targeted searches by police and immigration officers had shifted from towns and villages to the hills where marijuana plantations were often located.

While members of the Rastafarian community stated the Ministry of Education had increased enforcement of regulations requiring the vaccination of schoolchildren to enter school, they said the government sometimes provided waivers to Rastafarian families that cited their religious belief in not vaccinating their children. Some Rastafarians said they decided to vaccinate their children so they could attend school when a waiver was not granted; others chose to homeschool. According to Rastafarian representatives, the government granted waivers when parents clearly cited religion as the basis for the request; if this information was not provided, the government did not approve the waiver. Rastafarians stated the lack of insurance coverage for traditional doctors some Rastafarians used continued to be a problem due to high costs.

The government continued to consult with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, as well as the Christian Council, comprising representatives of the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations, on issues relevant to their communities. It also continued its informal meetings with members of the Rastafarian community on pending legislation and policies, including certification of priests to sign marriage certificates, issues surrounding required vaccinations for school attendance, and cannabis legalization.

The government also continued to consult with the Religious Advisory Committee, comprised of leaders from different religious communities, to develop regulatory and legal reforms and program recommendations for approval by the cabinet of ministers.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution affirms the country “is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God.” The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and of religion and freedom to change his or her religion or belief. In addition, he or she has the freedom to practice his or her religion, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private. An antiblasphemy law exists, but it is not enforced.

The constitution permits freedom of association, and there are no regulations regarding freedom to organize and worship. Religious organizations may register as nonprofit religious institutions with the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation, Ecclesiastical Affairs, and Information and qualify for tax exemptions. Organizations may also register as corporations, which requires an application to the government and the issuance of a certificate of incorporation by parliament.

The constitution grants religious groups the right to establish schools and provide religious instruction to those wishing to receive it. Students in public schools receive nondenominational religious instruction based on Christianity. Christian prayers are recited at school assemblies; attendance and participation are not mandatory. Students wishing to opt out of Christian prayer or religious education classes are excused from participation. By law, vaccinations are required for school enrollment in all schools receiving government funding. Home schooling is permitted.

Marijuana use is permitted for medical purposes and scientific research. According to government statements, the use of marijuana is also permitted for religious sacraments, but this policy is not enshrined in law.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to the government, the Islamic Center of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which operates three mosques, was in the process of registering as a corporation, the first Islamic organization to do so. The group filed a petition with the Commercial and Intellectual Property Office to formally incorporate; the government continued to review the request at year’s end.

In April clarifying amendments decriminalizing possession and use of small amounts of nonmedical marijuana were introduced in the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Bill, legislation that remained pending with parliament. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves stated in an address to parliament that Rastafarians and Hindus were permitted to use cannbis for sacramental purposes. In July the government awarded Rastafarian cooperatives some of the first commercial licenses to cultivate majijuana.

The Ministry of Education, Reconciliation, Ecclesiastical Affairs, and Information said accommodations permitted dreadlocks for Rastafarians at some workplaces, including construction sites, with appropriate headgear called a Tam or Rastacap, which is similar to an elongated ski cap. Rastafarians, however, continued to encounter prohibitions on dreadlocks in certain work areas and in some private schools. In March Prime Minister Gonsalves and Attorney General Jaundy Marting publicly defended Rastafarians against religious discrimination, including regarding their use of dreadlocks. According to Rastafarians, vaccinations as a requirement for school enrollment remained an area of contention between Ministry of Health officials and Rastafarians with school-age children. Some Rastafarians said they decided to vaccinate their children; others chose homeschooling.

Trinidad and Tobago

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance, including worship. It recognizes the existence of fundamental human rights and freedoms and prohibits discrimination based on religion.

The law prohibits acts of sedition and seditious intent, which includes engendering or promoting feelings of ill will towards, hostility to, or contempt for any class of inhabitants, including based on religion.

A fine of up to 1,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) ($150) may be levied for expressions of hatred directed specifically against a person’s religion, including any “riotous, violent, indecent, or disorderly behavior in any place of divine worship,” or attacks, ridicule, or vilification of another person’s religion in a manner likely to provoke a breach of the peace.

The law also prescribes a fine and imprisonment for two years for “any person who is convicted of any act or an attempt to commit blasphemy, writing and publishing, or printing and publishing, any blasphemous libel…”; however, the government does not enforce the law.

Judicial review, with the power of the court to modify or enforce orders, is available to those who state they are victims of religious discrimination. Claimants may also appeal a court’s decision.

Possession and use of small amounts of marijuana is legal, but the consumption of marijuana is illegal in public spaces.

Religious groups must register with the government to receive tax-exempt donations or gifts of land, perform marriages, or receive visas for foreign missionaries. To register, groups must demonstrate they are nonprofit organizations, be in operation for at least one year, and submit a request for charitable status to the Ministry of Finance. The request must include a certificate or articles of incorporation, the constitution and bylaws of the organization, and the most recently audited financial statements. Religious groups have the same rights and obligations as most legal entities, regardless of their registration status. They may, for example, own land and hire employees, and they are liable for property taxes and government-mandated employee benefits.

Chaplains representing different faiths present in the country may visit prisons to perform religious acts and minister to prisoners.

The EOC is established by law as an independent body comprised of five commissioners appointed by the president with advice from the prime minister and leader of the opposition. The EOC is charged with eliminating discrimination through investigating and resolving complaints through conciliation, as well as developing education programs.

The government permits religious instruction in public schools, allocating time each week during which any religious group may provide an instructor at the parent’s request for an adherent in the school. Attendance at these classes is voluntary, and the religious groups represented are diverse. The law states public schools may not refuse admission to individuals based on religious beliefs, and no child is required to attend any religious observance or receive instruction in religious subjects as a condition of admission or continued attendance in a public school. Private schools, also called “assisted schools,” receive a combination of government and private funding.

The government subsidizes religiously affiliated public schools, including schools operated by Christian, Hindu, and Muslim groups. The government allots primary school funding on a per pupil basis, with the amount varying each year. For secondary schools, the government allots funding based on budget requests submitted by each school.

No child over two months of age is permitted to enter a nursery, pre-school, or primary school without first being immunized, or having started the immunization process. The law does not make an exception for religious beliefs.

Parents may enroll their children in religiously affiliated or other private schools, or in some cases homeschool them as an alternative to public education as long as a parent interested in homeschooling submits a letter of intent to the Ministry of Education, which determines if the parent is qualified.

Foreign missionaries must meet standard requirements for entry-visas and must represent a registered religious group in the country. Permits are valid for a maximum period of three years, at a cost of TTD 500 ($75) per year. Missionaries may not remain longer than three years per visit but may re-enter after a year’s absence.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In response to a November 2018 High Court ruling allowing a female Special Reserve Police officer to wear a hijab while in uniform, the National Muslim Women’s Organization of Trinidad and Tobago said it was pleased with the ruling, adding that if female officers in other countries were allowed to wear their hijab to work, Trinidad and Tobago should not be any different. The High Court reversed a ruling that barred female Muslim police officers from wearing hijabs while on duty. Justice Margaret Mohammed struck down the longstanding rule against the headwear by law enforcement officers, stating that the intention of the framers of the constitution was for an “evolving plural society” where religious symbols were permitted. Mohammed listed those religious symbols as the cross, the rosary, raksha sutra, sindoor, and hijabs, all permitted in public spaces.

In December a law was implemented decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and creating a licensing authority to permit the cultivation and sale of marijuana, primarily for medical purposes but also for religious or scientific uses. Prior to the law’s passage, several Muslim organizations asked the government to conduct an independent analysis of the pros and cons of decriminalizing marijuana. Members of the Rastafarian community supported the law. Pro-marijuana activists criticized the legislation for not going far enough to legalize marijuana use and cultivation.

The new law removed criminal penalties for possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana. The law also provides a pathway for the expungement of prior marijuana convictions and allows individuals to cultivate plants for personal use. A companion law established a regulatory body to approve licenses for marijuana businesses.

Members of the government and officials from both political parties continued to participate in ceremonies and holidays of various religious groups and emphasized religious tolerance and harmony in their remarks. Prime Minister Keith Rowley issued public messages for Easter, Ramadan, and Diwali that underscored religious freedom, diversity, and unity. In his Diwali message, he said, “Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most successful multi-cultural, and most significantly multi-religious societies. In comparison, we can boast of our tolerance and respect for each other’s beliefs, and ethnicity, but I believe we all need to go further, seeking a deeper understanding of those who occupy this geographical space.” On March 20, Prime Minister Rowley met with the Muslim community following the attacks on mosques in New Zealand to assure them of their “right to protection and equal place.”

The government continued to limit the number of long-term foreign missionaries to 35 per registered religious group. Missionaries in excess of the 35 individuals could remain in the country for a maximum of 30 days. IRO members continued to state the government equitably applied the law; however, some international religious groups continued to state more than 35 missionaries could remain in the country if they affiliated with more than one registered group, including nonprofit groups and charities. The IRO’s former president, a Hindu, said the law continued to constrain Hindus, who had few missionaries but wanted them to stay longer than the three-year legal limit. According to the president of the IRO, religious institutions could apply to extend the stay of their missionaries, but there was no guarantee of approval.

According to the EOC, it received nine formal complaints of discrimination based on religion during the year, compared with 11 in 2018. Cases primarily involved Muslims not being allowed to wear the hijab in the workplace or to take time off from work to attend Friday prayer.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future