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The Bahamas
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement


the BahamasThe Bahamas has an area of 13,939 square miles and a population of 342,400. More than 90 percent profess to be religious. Christianity is the prominent religion. Protestant Christian denominations including Baptists represent about 35 percent of the population, Anglicans 15 percent, Pentecostals 8 percent, Church of God 5 percent, Seventh-day Adventists 5 percent, and Methodists 4 percent, but there are also significant Roman Catholics (14 percent) and Greek Orthodox populations. Smaller Jewish, Baha'i, Jehovah's Witnesses, Rastafarian, and Muslim communities also are active. The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and Christmas Day.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contribute to the generally free practice of religion. Discrimination on the basis of religious belief is expressly forbidden. The government generally respects religious freedom in practice.

The preamble to the Constitution of 1973 recognizes that "the preservation of …Freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to Self-Discipline, Industry, Loyalty, Unity, and an abiding respect for religious values and the rule of law." The Constitution also guarantees freedom of conscience, expression and of assembly and association. Article 22 declares that every person shall be free to change his religious belief, and to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance, alone or with others in private or public. Religious institutions may not be hindered in providing religious instruction whether or not they receive government subsidies. The Constitution, however, indicates that these rights may be abridged "in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons..."

As the dominant religion, references to Christian ideas are often mentioned in public discourse, and the Constitution requires the government to respect Christian values. However, other religions generally enjoy a high degree freedom, and there are no requirements to register with the government in order to operate. Haitian immigrants, however, complain that the practice of Obeah (a type of folk magic or voodoo) is illegal, and those caught practicing it, even if attempting only to restore a person to health rather than to inflict harm through Obeah, are liable to 3 months' imprisonment.

Religion is recognized as an academic subject in government schools and is included in mandatory standardized achievement and certificate tests. The Constitution allows students, or their guardians in the case of minors, to decline to participate in religious education and observance in schools; this right, although rarely exercised, is respected in practice.

2010 U. S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on the Bahamas


Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 20:56