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 the publication and sale of materials containing language deemed blasphemous; 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 it must provide a letter of request to the ministry. The Attorney General grants final approval, and the ministry grants applications for tax exemptions; these are routinely approved. To be recognized as an NGO, the group must submit details to CAIPO regarding the organization, including information about its directors, as well as a description of the group’s general activities and the location of these activities. According to 2011 government statistics, the most recent available, and information from CAIPO, there are approximately 20 religious groups registered in the country.
By law, 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, by law, subsidizes all public denominational schools staffed by the associated faith-based organization, including those of the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Mennonite communities. 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 religious groups other than the one associated with a school may also attend these schools and are not obligated to attend religion classes. There are no non-Christian denominational schools.
As part of the visa process, foreign missionaries must apply to the Ministry of Labor for a work permit costing 500 East Caribbean dollars (ECD) ($185), along with an application fee of 100 ECD ($37); the permit must be renewed annually. To be approved, foreign missionaries 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.
Following June 23 general elections, the Office of Religious Affairs, also known as the Religious Affairs Unit, moved from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, creating the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and Religious Affairs. Reshuffling of ministries and government offices is customary following elections. The government continued to review its religious affairs program to determine appropriate resource allocation through year’s end, especially in light of the office’s transfer and the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Minister LaCrette, the government’s stated objective for making the transfer was to ensure the holistic (physical, mental, and spiritual) wellbeing of the country and its people. LaCrette said his goal was to see a nation that was not only physically well, but also one in which individuals had the freedom to worship and practice their religion.
The government’s faith-based skills training program, inaugurated in 2021, continued throughout the year. Community churches organized the program with financial assistance from the government, and it was available to anyone, regardless of religion, interested in acquiring lifelong occupational skills.
Government officials consulted and collaborated with religious groups regarding the safe reopening of all religious services and activities following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government held a national day of spiritual reflection and prayer on June 26.
As in previous years, the government’s official declarations, speeches, and activities attended by the Governor General, Prime Minister, and other officials often included religious references. Examples included Christian prayers, scripture readings, and exhortations from members of the religious community, such as the head of the Conference of Churches. Denominational and ecumenical Christian worship services were part of official festivities on national holidays such as Independence and Thanksgiving Day.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, along with other cabinet ministers, gave remarks at the annual ecumenical church service organized by the National Celebrations Committee in collaboration with the CCG to commemorate the country’s Thanksgiving Day, marking the anniversary of the 1983 U.S. military intervention. The public service featured prayers, scripture readings, and sermons from various Christian denominations.