Executive Summary

The constitution and other laws provide for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion, and freedom to change one’s religion or beliefs. Smaller churches continued to find the 750-member requirement for registration difficult to meet, although religious groups stated they could conduct most normal functions without registration.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

Although the U.S. government does not maintain an embassy in the country, the U.S. Ambassador to Fiji is accredited to the government. Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Fiji discussed religious pluralism and tolerance during visits with the national government in November.

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11,000 (July 2017 estimate). According to the 2011 national census, approximately 95 percent of the population is Christian. The Nauru Congregational Church (which includes the Nauru Protestant Church) is the largest Christian group constituting 36 percent of the population, followed by the Roman Catholic Church at 33 percent, the Nauru Independent Assembly of God at 13 percent, and the Nauru Independent Church at 10 percent. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) each constitute less than 1 percent of the population. Two percent of the population reported no religious affiliation. Ethnic Chinese residents, estimated to constitute 5 percent of the population, are Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, or nonreligious. Additionally as of December 22, approximately 130 asylum seekers and 970 refugees reside in the country, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for the freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, and association. These rights may be restricted by any law which is “reasonably required” in the interests of defense or public safety, order, morality, or health.

Under the law, religious groups must register with the government to operate in an official capacity, which includes proselytizing, building houses of worship, holding religious services, and officiating at marriages. A 2014 cabinet memorandum sets out requirements for registration of new religious groups, including having at least 750 enrolled members, land and a building in the country, and leadership by a Nauruan member of the clergy, who must reside in the country. The Catholic Church, the Nauru Congregational Church, the Assemblies of God, the Nauru Independent Church, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church are officially registered.

Religious groups may operate private schools and a number do so. In public schools, the government allows religious groups to have a weekly religious education program with students during school hours, but does not require schools to offer such education. In schools where religious education is provided, students are required to attend the program led by the representative of their respective religious group. Students whose faith is not represented are required to undertake independent study during the class time devoted to religious education.

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

Government Practices

Although the law requires registration for religious groups to conduct a full range of activities, local religious leaders stated the government required such recognition only if a denomination’s clergy wished to officiate at marriages. On April 6, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, first registered in 2013, opened its first newly constructed church for its 50 members. There were no reports the government discriminated in the registration process, although leaders of churches with smaller congregations continued to express concerns that the 750-member requirement implemented in 2014 was difficult to meet. The registration application for the Baptist Church, which does not have 750 members, remained pending at the end of the year.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

The U.S. Ambassador to Fiji is accredited to the government; as the U.S. government does not maintain an embassy in Nauru. In November embassy officials discussed religious tolerance during several discussions with senior government officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other national government officials.

2017 Report on International Religious Freedom: Nauru
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