Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Tonga

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 26 October 2009
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Tonga, 26 October 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ae86100b.html [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

[Covers the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009]

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country is an archipelago with a land area of 288 square miles and a population of 102,000. According to census data from 2006, membership by percentage of population of major religious groups was: Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, 37.3 percent; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 16.8 percent; Free Church of Tonga, 15.6 percent; and Roman Catholic Church, 11.3 percent. All other Christian denominations, namely the Tokaikolo Church (a local offshoot of the Methodist Church), Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, and Anglicans, account for 14 percent. The Baha'i Faith, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism together make up 4 percent and the remaining 1 percent declined to state their religious affiliation, if any.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There is no state religion. Registration of religious groups is recommended by the Government for tax purposes but is not required. All religious groups are permitted duty-free entry of goods intended for religious purposes, but no religious group is subsidized or granted tax-exempt status.

The Constitution states that Sunday, the Sabbath day, is to be "kept holy" and that no business can be conducted, "except according to law." Although an exception is made for hotels and resorts that are part of the tourism industry, the Sabbath day business prohibition is enforced strictly for all other businesses, regardless of a business owner's religion.

A number of religious groups, including Mormons, Free Wesleyan Church, Catholics, and Seventh-day Adventists, operated schools in the country.

The Government observes Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas Day as official holidays.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

The government-owned Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) maintains policy guidelines regarding the broadcast of religious programming on TV Tonga and Radio Tonga. The TBC guidelines state that in view of "the character of the listening public," those who preach on TV Tonga and Radio Tonga must confine their preaching "within the limits of the mainstream Christian tradition." All religious groups are permitted to host programs on Radio Tonga and TV Tonga, but discussions of the basic tenets of non-Christian religions are not permitted. Notices of activities of all churches were broadcast on both Radio Tonga and TV Tonga as well as on privately owned radio and television stations.

Foreign missionaries are active in the country and operate freely.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or who had not been allowed to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes and Discrimination

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government did not maintain a resident Embassy in the country; the U.S. Ambassador in Suva, Fiji, is accredited to the Government of Tonga. The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Fiji held discussions with Wesleyan, Mormon, Catholic, and Baha'i officials as well as nongovernmental organizations, such as the Catholic Women's League, during visits to the country.

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