U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2002 - St. Lucia

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

The country has a total area of 238 square miles, and its population is approximately 163,300. The dominant religion is Christianity, and some 65 percent of the island's residents are Roman Catholic. There also are Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Jehovah's Witnesses communities. Small minority religions include the Baha'i Faith and Rastafarianism.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Government is secular, but most government officials are Christian. Christian holy days such as Good Friday, Easter, Whitmonday, and Christmas are national holidays. The Government does not take any particular steps to promote interfaith understanding.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

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

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 refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Relations between the various religious communities are generally amicable. The St. Lucia Christian Council conducts activities to promote greater mutual understanding and tolerance among adherents of different denominations within the Christian faith.

In October 2001, the authorities completed preliminary investigations in the case of two Rastafarian men charged with murder and arson in the December 2000 killing of a nun and a priest who had been set on fire along with other congregation members during a Catholic Mass in Castries. The men also desecrated the altar in the capital; some of the men's family members were worshiping at the time. Rastafarian leaders criticized the attack. The case is being prepared for hearing in the High Court in September 2002.

There are some signs of growing religious intolerance within the community; the Government strongly criticizes and investigates such events. For example, in March 2002, unidentified individuals made three attempts to burn the Pentecostal Church building in La'feviulle; on each occasion the fire failed to spread. The Catholic Church conducts widely publicized "Cathedral Security Services" each Sunday and on all feast days. Normal security at the church since the December 2000 attacks is one security guard daily, and five on "Cathedral Security Service" days.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom with the Government, local groups, and other organizations in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting 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 law provides that the Secretary of State, with the assistance of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, shall transmit to Congress "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." This Annual Report includes 195 reports on countries worldwide. The 2002 Report covers the period from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002.

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