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U.S. Department of State
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

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

There is no state or politically dominant religion. The State does not favor a particular religion, nor are there separate categories for different religions.

Christianity was introduced widely into the area by missionaries in the 19th century. Major religions include the Roman Catholic Church; the Kiribati Protestant Church (KPC), formerly the Congregational Church; Seventh-Day Adventists; the Baha'i Faith; and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Catholics are the dominant group, and constitute an estimated 51 percent of the population; members of the KPC constitute an estimated 35 percent. Other religious groups each account for only 1 to 2 percent of the population.

Missionaries are free to seek converts. There are missionaries from the major faiths represented on the island; the Catholics, Protestants, Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Church of God operate secondary schools.

The Government takes no active steps to promote interfaith understanding.

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.

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

Christianity is a dominant social and cultural force, but there are amicable relations between the country's religions. Nonbelievers, who constitute a very small percentage of the residents, do not suffer discrimination. Virtually all governmental and social functions begin and end with an interdenominational Christian prayer delivered by an ordained minister, cleric, or church official.

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.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 10-09-1999