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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. Religious Freedom

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

The Department of Home and Cultural Affairs has a nominal policy-making role concerning religion. It characterizes this role, on the one hand, as keeping a balance between constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom, free speech, and expression; and, on the other hand, maintenance of public order. In this regard, all religious institutions are required to register with the Government; however, there is no evidence that registration has been denied to any group.

Most citizens are members of Christian churches. Church membership is divided approximately as follows: Anglican (Church of Melanesia) 33 percent; Roman Catholic (21 percent); South Seas Evangelical Church (19 percent); United Church (11 percent); and Seventh-Day Adventists (11 percent). Traditional indigenous religious believers, consisting primarily of the Kwaio community on the island of Malaita, account for approximately 5 percent. Other groups, such as the Baha'i faith, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and indigenous churches that have broken off from traditional Christian churches, account for another 2 percent. There are believed to be members of other world religions within the foreign community who are free to practice their religion, but they are not known to proselytize or hold public religious ceremonies.

In general the Government does not subsidize religion. Several schools and health services in the country were built by and continue to be operated by religious organizations. There are schools sponsored by Roman Catholics, the Church of Melanesia, the United Church (Methodist), the South Sea Evangelical Church, and Seventh-Day Adventists. Upon independence the Government recognized that it had neither the funds nor the personnel to take over these institutions and agreed to subsidize their operations. The Government also pays the salaries of most teachers and health staff in the national education system. Additionally, the public school curriculum includes 30 minutes daily of religious instruction, the content of which is agreed upon by the Christian churches. Students whose parents do not wish them to attend the class are excused. The Government, however, does not subsidize church schools that do not align their curriculums with governmental criteria. There is mutual understanding between the Government and the churches but no formal Memorandum of Understanding. Although theoretically non-Christian religions can be taught in the schools, there is no such instruction at present.

Christianity was brought to the country in the 19th and early 20th centuries by missionaries representing several Western churches: Anglican; Roman Catholic; South Seas Evangelical; Seventh-Day Adventist; and the London Missionary Society (which became the United Church). Some foreign missionaries continue to work in country. However, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, whose clergy is about 50 percent indigenous, the clergy of the other traditional churches is indigenous. Traditional church missionaries are represented by religions such as the Seventh-Day Adventists, the United Church (Methodist), the South Sea Evangelical Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are also nontraditional religious missionaries present for short periods as lecturers or speakers, such as the Baha'is, Pentecostals, and Muslims.

There are no government-sponsored ecumenical activities. Customarily, government oaths of office are taken on the Bible; however, religious oaths are forbidden by the Constitution and cannot be required.

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

In general there are amicable relations between the religious communities. Joint religious activities, such as religious representation at national events, are organized through the Solomon Islands Christian Association, which is composed of the five traditional churches of the country. Occasionally, individual citizens object to the activities of nontraditional denominations and suggest that they be curtailed. However, society in general is tolerant of different religious beliefs and activities.

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. During the period covered by this report, the Ambassador received written responses from the Secretary of Home and Cultural Affairs regarding the role and activities of that department and interviewed the chairman of the Solomon islands Christian Association and the director of a human rights nongovernmental organization, regarding the status of religious freedom. The Ambassador and the Embassy's consular officer also visit regularly with U.S. citizen missionaries.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 11-09-1999