Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

2010 Report on International Religious Freedom - Jamaica

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 17 November 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom - Jamaica, 17 November 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4cf2d08f2.html [accessed 26 December 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, 2009, to June 30, 2010]

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 reporting period.

Rastafarians alleged that the overwhelmingly Christian population discriminated against them. There were no other 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 has an area of 4,244 square miles and a population of 2.7 million. According to the most recent census (2001), religious affiliation as a proportion of the population is: Church of God, 24 percent; Seventh-day Adventist, 11 percent; Pentecostal, 10 percent; Baptist, 7 percent; Anglican, 4 percent; Roman Catholic, 2 percent; United Church, 2 percent; Methodist, 2 percent; Jehovah's Witnesses, 2 percent; Moravian, 1 percent; Brethren, 1 percent; unstated, 3 percent; and "other," 10 percent. The category "other" included 24,020 Rastafarians, an estimated 5,000 Muslims, 1,453 Hindus, approximately 350 Jews, and 279 Baha'is. The census reported that 21 percent claimed no religious affiliation.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for 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 government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas.

Parliament may act to recognize a religious group; however, registration was not mandatory. Recognized groups receive tax-exempt status and other privileges, such as the right of their clergy to visit members in prison.

Religious schools were not subject to any special restrictions, nor did they receive special treatment from the government. Most religious schools were affiliated with either the Catholic Church or Protestant denominations; there was also at least one Jewish school.

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 reporting period.

A Rastafarian sect, the Church of Haile Selassie I, has sought religious incorporation for 14 years without success. The church's most recent hearing before a parliamentary joint select subcommittee was in February 2010. Some in parliament maintained that the church should be denied incorporation because it uses marijuana, which is illegal, in religious services. The church, however, claimed that this was not the case and that it used legal herbs.

Members of the Rastafarian community continued to complain that law enforcement officials unfairly targeted them; however, it was not clear whether such complaints reflected discrimination on the basis of religious belief or were due to the group's alleged illegal use of marijuana as part of Rastafarian religious practice.

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

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Rastafarians alleged that the overwhelmingly Christian population discriminated against them. There were no other reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Local media outlets continued to provide a forum for extensive, open coverage and debate on religious matters. Muslim and Jewish groups reported that society was very tolerant of diverse religious affiliation. Jewish leaders noted that assimilation and intermarriage were so common that the Jewish community was gradually disappearing.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Representatives of the U.S. embassy met with members of the Jewish, Muslim, and Rastafarian communities as well as with representatives of the Jamaican Council of Churches to discuss topics related to religious freedom.

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