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Executive Summary

The constitution states no law may be passed respecting the establishment of a state religion or impairing the free exercise of religion. Government assistance may be provided to religiously affiliated schools for nonreligious purposes. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Kosrae State continued to say it faced slow police responses to incidents of discrimination in receiving public services, and a Canadian imam was issued a visa limiting areas of travel.

Some Christians advocated amending the constitution to prohibit the presence of non-Christian religious groups. The Inter-Denominational Council in Pohnpei continued to address social problems and promote official cooperation among most Christian groups. Other groups, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses, stated the council’s charter was not inclusive. Ahmadi Muslims reported incidents of vandalism to their religious centers and homes.

The U.S. embassy discussed religious freedom and tolerance with national and state governments. In addition, the embassy promoted religious diversity through social media, civil society outreach programs, and meetings with faith-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 104,000 (July 2017 estimate). According to government statistics, approximately 99 percent of the population identify as Christian. Several Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, are present in every state. According to government statistics, 55 percent of long-term residents are Roman Catholic and 42 percent are Protestant. The United Church of Christ is the main Protestant denomination. Other Christian groups include Baptists, Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Church, the Apostolic Church, the Salvation Army, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Other religious groups exist in small numbers, including approximately 20 Ahmadi Muslims, with a variable expatriate population of Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and other Muslims. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 2.7 percent follow folk religions.

In Kosrae State, 90 percent of the population is Protestant, with the Congregational Church the most prominent. In Pohnpei State, the population is evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics – more Protestants live on the western side, while more Catholics live on the eastern side. In Chuuk State, an estimated 60 percent is Catholic and 40 percent is Protestant. In Yap State, an estimated 80 percent of the population is Catholic and the remainder is Protestant. Religious affiliation often follows clan lines.

The majority of foreign workers are Filipino Catholics, who number approximately 850.

Legal Framework

The constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion or governmental restrictions on freedom of religion, although the government may fund nonreligious activities in religiously affiliated schools. The constitution provides for the free exercise of religion. It also provides that the traditions of the country may be protected by statute and, if such statue is challenged as violating rights provided in the constitution, protection of the tradition “shall be considered a compelling social purpose warranting such governmental action.”

There are no registration requirements for religious groups.

There is no religious education in public schools, but religion is taught in private religious schools in addition to the curriculum established by the Department of Education.

The country is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

During the year, Ahmadi Muslims continued to experience denial of services, including refusal to provide postal access. After approximately two years of denial of access to water in Malem, Kosrae, the national government provided a grant to extend water service to Ahmadiyya Muslim families and the Islamic Center, using existing water connections. An Ahmadi imam reported there continued to be a slow police response to threats of physical assault and incidents of vandalizing graffiti, particularly in the predominantly Protestant Kosrae State.

The government issued a new imam, a Canadian citizen, a limited visa that allowed travel to only two of the four states.

The government continued to provide grants to private, church-affiliated schools. The government continued to make no distinction between public and private schools in its grants programs.

National and state government events routinely opened and closed with a prayer, invocation, or benediction from a Protestant or Catholic clergy member, and often one from each group.

Some Christians on social media advocated amending the constitution to prohibit the presence of non-Christian religious groups, and some pastors opposed allowing non-Christians to practice openly. Government leaders have neither publicly supported nor opposed these positions.

The Inter-Denominational Council (of Christian churches) in Pohnpei continued to convene monthly to address social problems and promote official cooperation among its member Christian groups. Examples of the council’s activities included a youth leadership program for secondary-level students and a Thanksgiving service to support Christian unity. Other groups, including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, said the council’s charter was not inclusive and that they would be forced to reject their own beliefs in order to join.

Ahmadi Muslims again reported incidents of vandalism, including graffiti and stone throwing, at their religious center in Kosrae and homes in Kosrae and Pohnpei. Anti-Muslim rhetoric – some advocating violence – continued to increase on social media.

Ahmadis said they continued outreach through youth after-school sports and homework programs, in addition to adult evening faith programs. In February Ahmadi Muslims held a “peace conference” in the State of Kosrae with approximately 30 attendees from various religions, including a former Ahmadi Muslim mayor of the municipality of Malem.

The U.S. embassy discussed religious freedom and held regular meetings with the Department of Foreign Affairs, senior cabinet officials, and state government officials. Embassy officials stressed the primacy of the constitution over local laws or practices that potentially privilege one religious group over others.

In Kosrae State, embassy officials regularly met with local religious leaders to discuss religious tolerance based on the constitution.

Embassy officials conducted direct educational outreach on religious diversity to students, women’s groups, and local leaders, and in meetings with faith-based NGOs.

The U.S. Ambassador and embassy personnel participated in an Ahmadiyya Muslim informational event in Pohnpei to demonstrate U.S. support of religious tolerance.

The embassy continued to promote religious tolerance through social media highlighting U.S. religious diversity.

2017 Report on International Religious Freedom: Federated States of Micronesia
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U.S. Department of State

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