Cabo Verde

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
October 14, 2015

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Executive SummaryShare    

The constitution and other laws protect the right of individuals to choose, practice, profess, and change their religion. The government enacted a new law on religion that codified freedom of religion and worship in accordance with the constitution and international law. The government granted privileges to the Roman Catholic Church other groups did not receive and ratified a concordat with the Holy See governing the activities of the Catholic Church in the country. This agreement, among other things, recognizes the legal status of the Catholic Church, recognizes Catholic marriages under civil law, and provides for Catholic teaching in public schools.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

The U.S. embassy reiterated the importance of respecting religious freedom in discussions with government officials and members of civil society, including religious leaders, and through use of social media.

Section I. Religious DemographyShare    

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 538,535 (July 2014 estimate). The national government’s statistics indicate that 77 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 10 percent Protestant, 2 percent Muslim, and 11 percent does not identify with any religion. The second-largest Christian denomination is the Church of the Nazarene. Other Christian denominations include Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Assemblies of God, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and other Pentecostal and evangelical groups. There is a small Bahai community.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Legal Framework

The constitution states freedom of conscience, religion, and worship are inviolable rights and protects the right of individuals to choose, practice, profess, and change their religion, and to interpret their religious beliefs for themselves. It provides for the separation of religion and state and prohibits the state from imposing religious beliefs and practices on individuals. It prohibits political parties from adopting names associated with particular religious groups. The constitution prohibits ridiculing religious symbols or practices.

Violations of religious freedom are crimes subject to penalties of between three months and three years in prison.

A new Law on Religion, passed on May 16, codifies the constitution’s religious freedom provisions by ensuring equal rights and guarantees for all religions in accordance with the constitution and international law. The law separates religion and state, but allows the government to sign agreements with religious entities on matters of public interest. Specific sections of the law also guarantee the protection of religious heritage and the right to religious education, freedom of organization, and the free exercise of religious functions and worship.

On April 3, the government and the Holy See exchanged instruments of ratification of a concordat signed in 2013 pertaining to the legal status of the Catholic Church. The agreement recognizes the legal status of the Catholic Church and its right to carry out its apostolic mission freely. It further recognizes Catholic marriages under civil law. The Catholic Church, in turn, recognizes marriages that conform to its canon law and are recorded in the civil registry. The agreement also recognizes the right of Catholics to carry out religious observances on Sundays and specified Catholic holidays. It protects places of worship and other Catholic properties and provides for Catholic educational institutions, charitable activities, and pastoral work in the military, hospitals, and penal institutions, as well as Catholic teaching in public schools. The concordat exempts from taxes church revenues and properties used in religious and non-profit activities, and makes contributions to the church tax deductible. The parliament ratified the agreement in 2013, and the president signed it into law in January.

The Law on Religion requires that all associations, whether religious or secular, register with the Ministry of Justice. The constitution states an association may not be armed; be in violation of penal law; or promote violence, racism, xenophobia, or dictatorship. To register, a religious group must submit a copy of its charter and statutes signed by its members. Failure to register does not result in any restriction of religious practice, but registration provides additional benefits such as exemptions from national, regional, and local taxes and fees. Registered religious groups may receive exemption on taxes and fees in connection with places of worship or other buildings intended for religious purposes, direct support facilities and activities with exclusively religious purposes, institutions and seminars intended for religious education or training of religious leaders, goods purchased for religious purposes, and distribution of publications with information on religious places of worship. Legally recognized churches and religious groups may use broadcast time on public radio and television at their own expense.

Government Practices

The government granted privileges to the Catholic Church other groups did not receive. Some organizations said this practice strengthened the perception that the government favored the Catholic Church over other religious groups. The government used church representatives to inaugurate public buildings throughout the country. Public television transmitted paid religious programming, most of which was of Catholic services. A Brazilian-owned television network (TV Record) covered the religious activities of the Universal Church. Other religious groups received minimal TV broadcast time because they did not request it or had no means to pay for it.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare    

U.S. embassy officials promoted religious freedom in discussions with the government and civil society. Embassy representatives reiterated the importance of respecting religious freedom in formal meetings with the minister of parliamentary affairs (responsible for issues related to religion), the Muslim community, and the Church of the Nazarene, among others. The embassy also used different social media channels to raise awareness about the need to protect religious freedom.