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

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 religion 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. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Government does not promote or restrain religious activities. However, the Government regulates the establishment of religious organizations by requiring them to obtain charters as nonprofit organizations from the office of the Attorney General. This registration process is not protracted, and no applicants have been denied during the period covered by the report. As nonprofit organizations, these churches and missions are tax exempt. There is government financial support for religious schools; the Government also provides small scale financial assistance to cultural organizations.

Religious Demography

There are 15 Christian denominations. The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religion and approximately 65 percent of the population of 18,000 are members. Other religions with a sizable membership include the Evangelical Church (with approximately 2,000 members), the Seventh-Day Adventists (with approximately 1,000), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (about 300), and Jehovah's Witnesses (about 70). Modekngei, which embraces both pagan and Christian beliefs and is unique to Palau, has about 800 adherents.

A large percentage of citizens do not practice their faith actively. However, the primarily Catholic Filipino labor force (approximately 3,100 persons) practices its faith actively. There is active participation by the majority of the country's religious groups in Easter and Christmas services. There is also a small group of Bangladeshi Muslims in the labor force who practice their faith actively. However, employers have complained to the Division of Labor under the Ministry of Commerce and Trade that the Muslims' religious practices interfere both with activity in the workplace and with the living arrangements of the employing families. As a consequence of these complaints, the Ministry of Commerce and Trade decided to deny work permits to Bangladeshi workers in the future. Current workers are not being expelled.

There are two religious groups with independent radio stations, the High Adventure Ministries and the Seventh-Day Adventists.

Since the arrival of Jesuit priests in the early 19th century, foreign missionaries successfully have converted the population to their various faiths. Some missionaries have been in the country for years and speak the language fluently. A number of groups (the Baha'i Faith, the Roman Catholic Church, the Chinese Agriculture Mission, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Evangelical Church, the High Adventure Ministries, the Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Korean Church, the Korea Presbyterian Church, the Pacific Missionary Aviation, the Palau Assembly of God, and the Seventh-Day Adventists) have missionaries in the country on proselytizing or teaching assignments.

The Seventh-Day Adventist and the Evangelical Churches have missionaries teaching in their respective elementary and high schools. The Government does not permit religious instruction in the public schools.

There are no government sponsored ecumenical activities.

Although the Government does not affiliate with religious groups or promote religious activities, official ceremonies at the national or state level, such as public and private school graduations, always are conducted with a prayer to open and close the ceremonies.

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 Conversions 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

In general there are amicable relations between the religious communities. Most religious groups and activities are concentrated in the capital of Koror, where approximately 80 percent of the population lives.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

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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