The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including freedom of thought, freedom to practice one’s religion, and freedom from taking oaths contrary to one’s beliefs. By law, the government may make reasonable exceptions to constitutionally required provisions in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, and public health. The law criminalizes same sex relationships; punishments include prison terms of up to 12 years, and courts may also order offenders sent to psychiatric institutions.
The constitution prohibits a minister of a religion from being qualified to run in an election.
Religious groups seeking nonprofit status must register with the Attorney General’s Office. They must submit a letter signed by five executives of the religious group and provide the official name of the group and an address identifying the place of worship. The registration fee is 25 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($9). The Attorney General’s Registry Office reviews and approves applications. Any organization denied permission to register has the right to apply for judicial review. By law, religious groups also must register buildings used to publish marriage banns (announcements of marriage) or used as places of worship.
The constitution grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain private schools and to provide religious instruction. Students of different religions may attend private schools run by religious groups of another affiliation. Public schools may hold nondenominational prayers, and attendance is optional. The law requires the vaccination (non-COVID-19) of all children to attend both public and private schools. The government does not offer a waiver for children without vaccinations. Parents may homeschool their children.
Dreadlocks are prohibited in all government-funded schools as well as in prisons; however, the law is not enforced.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
During the year, members of the government’s COVID-19 task force continued to meet with religious leaders to address vaccine hesitancy.
The DAEC continued to advocate the repeal of a law prohibiting licensed clergy from running for public office.
Rastafarians continued to press the government for complete legalization of marijuana use for religious purposes following the decriminalization of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in 2020; unlimited use and cultivation remained illegal. Representatives of the Rastafarian community, however, again said authorities did not enforce the law against using marijuana when the community used it in its religious rites. In July, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced his support for allowing a domestic medical marijuana industry.
The government continued to subsidize teacher salaries at all private schools run by religious organizations, including those affiliated with the Catholic, Methodist, and Seventh-day Adventist Churches.
At public schools, teachers, principals, and students continued to lead nondenominational prayers during morning assemblies, but students were not required to participate.
The DAEC reported it continued to stand firmly against homosexuality and to support the law banning same sex marriage. In 2020, the Dominica Christian Council, with the participation of Anglican, Methodist, and Catholic Churches, applied for, and received, the High Court’s permission to intervene in opposition to a 2019 constitutional challenge seeking to overturn parts of the law. The MiRiDom and the HIV Legal Network filed the challenge on behalf of an unnamed claimant. On September 28, the High Court began case hearings that continued through year’s end.