The constitution protects freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and religion. It guarantees the right to change one’s religion and to manifest and propagate it. The constitution prohibits forced participation in any religious ceremony or instruction. The criminal code prohibits written blasphemous language; however, the government does not enforce the law.
To qualify for customs and tax exemptions, a religious group must obtain recognition from the government as a nongovernmental organization (NGO). The group must also register with the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) and with the Inland Revenue Office in the Ministry of Finance and provide a letter of request to the ministry. The attorney general grants final approval and the ministry grants the applications for tax exemptions. Applications are routinely granted. Recognition as an NGO requires the group to submit details to CAIPO regarding the organization, including information about its directors, as well as a description of the NGO’s general activities and the location of these activities.
The government allows religious head coverings of certain types, including the hijab and the Rastafarian head wrap, in photographs for national identity documents, provided the face is clearly visible.
The government subsidizes all existing denominational schools, managed by a board of directors and staffed by the associated faith-based organization, including those of the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Mennonite communities. There are no non-Christian denominational schools. In accordance with the constitution’s protections for freedom of conscience and religion, students at such schools may attend religion classes and may use credits from those classes towards completion of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate. Students from religions other than the one associated with a school may also attend these schools and are not obligated to attend religion classes.
Foreign missionaries require a worker’s permit costing 1,000 to 5,000 East Caribbean dollars ($370 to $1,900) or a waiver costing 100 East Caribbean dollars ($37) from the Ministry of Labor. They must demonstrate prior experience, and a registered religious group must sponsor them.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In March the government moved the Religious Affairs Unit from the Ministry of Youth to the Ministry of Education. The government also started its review of the religious affairs program to determine appropriate resource allocation and to design a work program for 2019.
The government’s official declarations, speeches, and activities often included religious references; denominational and ecumenical Christian worship services were part of official festivities on national holidays.