U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2000 - The Bahamas

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

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

Both government policy and the generally amicable relationship among religions in society contribute to the free practice of religion.

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. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

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

Although there is often reference to the country's strong Christian heritage in political and public discourse, there is no established or official state religion. Clergy are trained freely in the country and the Constitution specifically forbids infringement of a person's freedom to change religion.

Churches and other religious congregations do not face any special registration requirements, although they must incorporate legally in order to purchase land. There are no legal provisions to encourage or discourage the formation of religious communities, which are required to pay the same tariffs and stamp taxes as other companies once they legally incorporate. The Government permits foreign clergy and missionaries to enter the country and to practice their religion without restriction.

Religious Demography

There are a wide variety of religious beliefs in the country. Over 90 percent of the population of 275,000 profess a religion, and anecdotal evidence suggests that most of these persons attend services on a regular basis. The country is ethnically diverse, with a Haitian minority of as many as 40,000 persons, and a white/European minority that is nearly as large. The country's religious profile reflects this diversity. Protestant Christian denominations (including Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Evangelicals, Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Salvation Army) are in the majority, but there are significant Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox populations. Smaller Jewish, Baha'i, and Muslim communities are also active. A small but stable number of citizens identify themselves as Rastafarians, while some members of the country's small resident Guyanese and Indian populations practice Hinduism and other South Asian religions. Although many unaffiliated Protestant congregations are almost exclusively black, most mainstream churches are integrated racially. The Government meets regularly with religious leaders, both publicly and privately, to discuss social, political, and economic issues.

Religion is recognized as an academic subject at government schools and is included in mandatory standardized achievement and certificate tests for all students. The country's Christian heritage has a heavy influence on religion classes in government-supported schools, which focus on the study of Christian philosophy, biblical texts, and to a much lesser extent, comparative and non-Christian religions. The Constitution allows students or their guardians in the case of minors to opt out of religious education and observance in schools, and this right – although rarely exercised – is respected in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion 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 II. Societal Attitudes

Relations among religious congregations are generally harmonious. There were no reports of religiously motivated violence or discrimination against members of religious minorities in the period covered by this report.

There are several interdenominational organizations and ecumenical movements. These groups freely express their opinions on social, political, and economic issues.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy engages the Government on a wide range of human rights issues and concerns, including the issue of religious freedom. The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights.

This report 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 2000 Report covers the period from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000

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