Religion in Jamaica

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Religion in Jamaica, according to the most recent census (2001), consists of a breakdown of 66% Christian (62% Protestant, 2% Roman Catholic, and 2% Jehovah's Witnesses), 3% unstated, and 10% other.[1] The category other includes 29,026 Rastas, an estimated 5,000 Muslims, 3,000 Buddhists 1,453 Hindus, and approximately 200 Jews. The census reported 21% who claimed no religious affiliation.[1] The largest religion indigenous to Jamaica is Rastafari.[2]

Jamaica's laws establish the freedom of religion and prohibit religious discrimination. While in the past Rastafarians were discriminated against by government practices, since 2015 the government has taken steps to make amends. Representatives of the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities in Jamaica have described the country as being tolerant of religious diversity.



62% of the Jamaican population are Protestants. Jamaican Protestantism is composed of several denominations: 24% Church of God, 11% Seventh-day Adventist, 10% Pentecostal, 7% Baptist, 4% Anglican, 2% United Church, 2% Methodist, 1% Moravian and 1% Brethren Christian.

The Church of God has 111 congregations in six regions:[3]

Roman Catholicism[edit]

There are about 50,000 (2%) Catholics in Jamaica, which is divided into three dioceses, including one archdiocese:

The Missionaries of the Poor monastic order originated in Kingston, Jamaica.

Latter-day Saints[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reports 5,891 members living in Jamaica.[4] Members of the Church are organized under the Kingston Jamaica Stake, the Mandeville Jamaica District and the Kingston Jamaica Mission, and members attend the Panama City Panama Temple.[5][6]

Rastafari movement[edit]

The Rastafari movement or Rasta is a new religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, which at the time was a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black descendants of slaves.[7][8] Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (ruled 1930–1974), as God incarnate, the Second Advent of Jesus Christ or as Christ in his Kingly Character, depending on their views on the Emperor. The 2001 census counted 29,026 Rastafari.[1]

Other religions[edit]

Other popular religions in Jamaica include Islam, Bahá'í Faith with perhaps 8000 Bahá'ís[9] and 21 Local Spiritual Assemblies,[10] Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.[11] There is also a small population of around 200 Jews forming the Shaare Shalom Synagogue in Kingston, who describe themselves as Liberal-Conservative.[12] The first Jews in Jamaica trace their roots back to early 15th-century Spain and Portugal.[13] There are an estimated 5,000 Muslims in Jamaica.[14]

Religious freedom[edit]

The constitution of Jamaica establishes the freedom of religion and outlaws religious discrimination. A colonial-era law criminalizing Obeah and Myalism continues to exist, but has rarely been enforced since Jamaica's independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.[15]

Registration with the government is not mandatory for religious groups, but provides groups with some privileges, such as being able to own land and enter legal disputes as an organization. Groups seeking tax-exempt status must register separately as charities.[15]

The public school curriculum includes nondenominational religious education. Some public schools are run by religious institutions, but are required to hold to the same standard as other public schools. Religious private schools also operate in Jamaica.[15]

While Rastafarians were once persecuted by the government of Jamaica and routinely harassed by police looking for then-illegal cannabis, the government has since taken steps to accommodate Rastafarians, including the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of cannabis for religious purposes in 2015, and formal apologies coupled with financial reparations for past actions against the Rastafarian community, such as the Coral Gardens incident. Rastafarians still face some societal discrimination, particularly when seeking employment, but community representatives have stated that incidences of discrimination have sharply decreased since 2015.[15]

Representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities in Jamaica have described Jamaican as being tolerant of religious diversity, and identified the high level of interfaith dialogue as evidence to support this claim.[15]


  1. ^ a b c International Religious Freedom Report 2008: Jamaica. U.S. Department of State (2008) This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Savishinsky, Neil J. "Transnational popular culture and the global spread of the Jamaican Rastafarian movement." NWIG: New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 68.3/4 (1994): 259-281.
  3. ^ "Church of God in Jamaica - Locations of Congregations" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Jamaica - LDS Statistics and Church Facts". Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  5. ^ "Find Places of Worship - LDS Maps". Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  6. ^ "Panama City Panama LDS (Mormon) Temple District". Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  7. ^ "Rastafari, roots and Ideology". OneWorld Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-01.
  8. ^ ""Dread Jesus": A New View of the Rastafari Movement". Retrieved 2010-02-01.
  9. ^ "Missionary Atlas Project - Central America, Snapshot of Jamaica". Online. 2007. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.
  10. ^ Bahá'í International Community (2006-08-11). "Jamaicans celebrate 4th National Baha'i Day". Bahá'í World News Service.
  11. ^, Archived February 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Haruth Communications, Harry Leichter. "Jamaican Jews". Retrieved 2009-07-04.
  13. ^ Dawes, Mark (2003-06-10). "Jews hold firm Life goes on in Old Synagogue". Gleaner Co. Archived from the original on November 30, 2004. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  14. ^ "Jamaica". 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
  15. ^ a b c d e International Religious Freedom Report 2017 Jamaica US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.