The constitution and other laws provide for freedom of religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion, and prohibit discrimination based on religious belief. The government does not require religious groups to register and grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain private schools and provide religious instruction. No further legislative action occurred during the year on the government’s 2020 announcement to legalize same-sex civil unions or on holding a referendum on same-sex marriage, but some religious groups continued to oppose the legislation, stating they were committed to following their beliefs and were opposed to the idea of their churches sanctioning same-sex relationships. Media reported sporadic small-scale protests, some organized by religious groups, opposing the legalization of same-sex unions. Most religious leaders continued to say COVID-19 public health restrictions on gatherings, although applied equally in the country, adversely impacted their organizations. Government officials engaged with religious leaders to support their public messaging to emphasize the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations. In March, the government decriminalized the personal possession and use of up to 14 grams of marijuana, a change the Rastafarian community had previously sought. Rastafarians continued to object to the government’s vaccination requirement for school enrollment and for home schooling.
Some church leaders said they had to defend their continued provision of limited in-person services following COVID-19 outbreaks among their members because social and media criticism advocated for the complete closure of all facilities involving public gatherings, including places of worship. Following a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections, religious leaders called for all to pray to help reduce the surge.
During the year, embassy officials engaged government officials, including from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on respect for religious diversity and tolerance and discussed opportunities to jointly promote these values. On September 22, the Ambassador hosted an event with religious leaders to hear their perspectives on various social issues and to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their communities. Representatives from the Anglican, Pentecostal, Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of the Nazarene, and Jewish communities participated.