Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2001 - Samoa

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 26 October 2001
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2001 - Samoa, 26 October 2001, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
Comments The International Religious Freedom Report for 2001 is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to Congress by September 1 of each year, or the first day thereafter on which the appropriate House of Congress is in session, "an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom." The 2001 Report covers the period from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001.
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.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

Samoa is comprised of two major islands that total approximately 1,000 square miles, and the population is about 180,000 persons. Most live on the island of Upolu, where the capital, Apia, is located. As a result of a strong missionary movement in the 19th century, nearly 100 percent of the population is Christian; most of the population is Protestant, although Roman Catholicism is a significant force. The religious distribution of the population is estimated to be: Congregational Christian Church (43 percent); Catholic (21 percent); Methodist (17 percent); the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (10 percent); and Seventh-day Adventist (about 3 percent). There are small congregations of other Christian denominations, as well as members of the Baha'i Faith and adherents of Islam. There are no reports of atheists. This distribution of church members is reflected throughout the population, but individual villages, particularly small ones, may have only one or two of the major churches represented.

There are no sizable foreign national or immigrant groups, with the exception of U.S. citizens, most of whom are American Samoans. Members of this group practice the same faiths as native-born (Western) Samoans.

There is little or no correlation between religious differences and ethnic or political differences. Religious groups are comprised of citizens of any social and economic status.

Foreign missionary groups include the Baha'i Faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Roman Catholics.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion along with freedom of thought and conscience, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Constitution provides the right to practice the religion of one's choice, and the Government observes and enforces these provisions. The Constitution also provides for the protection of the right of religious freedom and effective remedies for violation of that right. Judicial remedies are accessible and effective.

The preamble to the Constitution acknowledges "an independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions." Nevertheless, while Christianity is constitutionally favored, there is no official or state religion. There are no religious holidays, aside from Christmas, that are considered national holidays.

There are no requirements for the recognition of a relgious group or for licenses or registration.

The Constitution provides freedom from unwanted religious indoctrination in schools but gives each denomination or religion the right to establish its own schools; these provisions are adhered to in practice. There are both religious and public schools; the public schools do not have religious instruction as part of their curriculum.

Pastoral schools in most villages provide religious instruction.

There is an independent Christian radio and television station.

Missionaries operate freely, either as part of one of the established churches, or by conducting independent revival meetings.

The Government takes steps to promote interfaith understanding by rotating ministers from various denominations who assist at government functions. Most government functions include a prayer at the opening.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion.

Although the Constitution grants each person the right to change religion or belief and to worship or teach religion alone or with others, in practice the matai (village chiefs) often choose the religious denomination of the aiga (extended family). In previous years, despite constitutional protections, village councils – in the name of maintaining social harmony within the village – sometimes banished or punished families that did not adhere to the prevailing religious belief in the village. However, civil courts take precedence over village councils, and courts have ordered families readmitted to the village. The 1990 Village Fono Act gives legal recognition to the decisions of the fono (village courts) and provides for limited recourse of appeal to the Lands and Titles Courts and to the Supreme Court. In July 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Village Fono Act may not be used to infringe upon villagers' freedom of religion, speech, assembly, or association. The Supreme Court also ordered the reinstatement of 32 persons who had been banished from a village for practicing a religion other than that traditionally practiced in the village. The plaintiffs had complained that the village matai in Saipipi village had prohibited them from conducting Bible classes or church services on the village's communal land and limited the number of churches allowed in the village.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

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 of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

There is strong societal pressure at the village and local level to attend church, participate in church services and activities, and support church leaders and projects financially. In some denominations, such financial contributions often total more than 30 percent of family income. A high percentage of the population attends church weekly.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

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