In October the Catholic Professional Society referred the speaker of parliament to the Ombudsman Commission for misuse of office related to the attempted removal of a totem pole from parliament’s main hall in 2013, and for using government funds to travel to the United States with a large delegation to accept an antique Bible for placement at parliament. The speaker planned to replace the totem pole with a “Christian unity pole” with the Bible at the base. The Catholic Bishops Conference condemned the removal attempt and issued warnings about the rise of religious fundamentalism as a risk to the country’s traditional identity.
Controversy continued over whether to ban non‑Christian religions. Starting in July 2013, parliament tasked the minister for religion, youth and community development and the Constitutional Review Commission to set up a bipartisan team to consult with the public to determine whether or not the government should “prohibit the worship of non‑Christian faiths.” The argument was that the national pledge and the constitution specifically state the country shall be a Christian country. Several church conferences and religious associations spoke out against the proposed ban as a violation of religious freedom, declaring that it was against Christian principles. There were no significant developments during the year and the issue had not been resolved by year’s end.
The Department of Community Development pursued its policy objectives by cooperating with many religious groups that, in addition to proselytizing, continued to provide education and health services.
Churches operated approximately half of schools and health services, and the government provided financial support for these institutions. The government subsidized their operation on a per‑pupil or per‑patient basis. In addition, the government continued to pay the salary and provide benefits for the majority of teachers and health staff (generally members of the civil service) who worked at these church‑administered institutions, as it did for teachers and health staff of national institutions. The education and health sectors continued to rely heavily on church‑run institutions.
The Department of Education continued to set aside one hour per week for religious instruction in public schools. Representatives of Christian churches taught the lessons, and students attended the class operated by the church of their parents’ choice. Children whose parents did not wish them to attend the classes were excused. Members of non‑Christian groups used family and group gatherings before and after school for religious lessons.