The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom of individuals to change their religion, and prohibition of discrimination based on creed. A law criminalizing “blasphemous libel” is unenforced.
The government does not require religious groups to register. To obtain duty-free import privileges and tax benefits, however, they are required to register with the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office. A religious group must file the relevant customs and tax forms, along with a resolution passed by the majority of its board of trustees expressly authorizing the application, plus the group’s related statutory declaration.
The constitution grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain private schools and provide religious instruction. The government provides subsidies or financial assistance to some of these schools to help cover the cost of students who could not find space in a public school. The public school curriculum includes religious “values education” as part of the historic association of schools with Christian missionaries who founded many of the schools. At the primary school level, the focus is on Christianity from several denominations. At the secondary school level, all major religions are included. The constitution protects students from mandatory religious instruction, ceremony, or observance without personal consent or, if under the age of 21, consent of the guardian.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Rastafarians continued to state their objection to the government’s enforcement of the prohibition on marijuana for any use, which they said made it impossible to fully perform their religious rituals. Rastafarian activists continued to say that police and immigration officials required Rastafarians to remove head coverings and gave extra scrutiny to Rastafarian women at checkpoints, which they said was a pretext for searching for marijuana. Authorities continued to state that the removal of head coverings was part of the government’s security measures, which were applied to all individuals regardless of religious affiliation.
Rastafarian activists continued to state that the requirements for vaccinations for all children to enroll in public schools violated Rastafarian religious beliefs. They also continued to object to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology requirement that all Rastafarian children cover their hair when attending school.
Representatives from the Barbados Muslim Association said they objected to a government policy requiring women to remove all head coverings for identification and passport photographs. The association continued to ask the government to change its practices to permit head coverings in identification photographs, including passports. The government continued to state that it was a security measure applied to all individuals regardless of religion.