Last Updated 7 October 2021

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an island country consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean. The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973. It is a constitutional parliamentary democracy.

The population is estimated to be 389,482 according to 2019 World Bank estimates.1 According to the 2010 census, the population is largely Christian with Protestants and Baptists representing 95% of the population. The country is home to around 10,000 Rastafarians, in addition to other belief minorities.2

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The preamble of the Constitution mentions “abiding respect for Christian values and the Rule of Law” and “recognizing the Supremacy of God.” However, it emphasizes individual liberty and human dignity.3 Chapter three, Article 20 protects the freedom of conscience and expression, while Article 22 specifically forbids infringement of the freedom to choose, change and practice the religion or belief of one’s choice.4

Parliament can restrict religious or belief practices in the interest of public safety, health, public order, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Christian privilege

Christian prayers remain present in all significant government events. It is common for politicians to quote religious teachings during speeches. Senior government officials in their official capacities occasionally addressed assemblies during formal religious services.5

Political and public discourse often invokes the country’s strong Christian heritage and Christian values. The government meets regularly with Christian leaders, both publicly and privately to discuss societal, political, and economic issues. The government regularly engaged the Bahamas Christian Council to discuss political, economic, and societal issues.6

Pastors in politics

The Bahamas has had a history of clergy involvement in politics, that includes partisan talking points being brought to the pulpit, endorsement from churches towards certain candidates and even pastors blurring the lines between their religious profile and a political career.7 For example:

  • Halson Moultrie, who was elected speaker of the house in 2017 is an ordained minister of the gospel at Bahamas Faith Ministries International.8 He is quoted as stating that when his spiritual values conflict with calls for legal reform “I always prefer to lean with the spiritual aspect. I think that’s the safest way, because laws continuously change […] Spiritual principles are forever; they don’t change.”9
  • Rev. Dr. C. B. Moss, who has been a pastor of Mt Olive Baptist Church for more than 30 years, has served in multiple public positions including as the vice-president of the senate.10; His Church has endorsed one of two candidates in the 2021

Following the 2017 elections, the Commonwealth Mission Baptist Church senior pastor Bishop Arnold Josey criticized the number of senior pastors that had emerged into frontline politics, warning from the dominance of political rhetoric and messages from the pulpit. 12

Education and children’s rights

Religion is taught in government schools and is included in mandatory standardized tests. Christianity has a strong influence on religion classes in government-supported schools, which focus on the study of Christian philosophy and Biblical texts, and, to a lesser extent, comparative and non-Christian religions presented in a Christian context. Article 22 of the Constitution allows students, or their guardians in the case of minors, to decline to participate in religious education and observance in schools.13

Approximately 55 out of 210 schools in the Bahamas are operated privately, those private schools usually have a current or historical connection with a faith organization, with some having mandatory church attendance.14

Corporal punishment

A 2021 study from the University of The Bahamas investigated the connection between the importance of religion in a respondents’ life with select social issues in The Bahamas. The study showed “the importance of Religion” was positively associated with the use of corporal punishment by the parents of respondents, and the likelihood of the respondent thinking it is necessary to use physical discipline with children.15

Family, community and society

Issues relating to gender equality, LGBTI+ rights, and forced labour persist as a challenge faced by residents of the Bahamas.16

Protection from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief is not mentioned in Article 26 of the Constitution, which protects Bahamians from different forms of discrimination.17 Successive attempts to reform the Constitution have failed following referenda.18

Most recently, a 2016 attempt to amend the Constitution to prevent discrimination on the basis of “sex” was rejected. It is suspected that this was in large part due to misinformation campaigns that sought confuse the terms “sex”, “gender” and “sexual orientation” in the minds of the public, suggesting that the reform would open the door to same-sex marriage.19; The sanctity of marriage was regularly raised in coverage of the issue in the lead-up to the referendum, and religious figures consulted for their opinions.20;; YES BAHAMAS CAMPAIGN Response to the Save Our Bahamas committee (the “NO” Pastors) – Government – News

Equality Bahamas, a volunteer-run organization reports that issues of discrimination, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are “amplified by religious fundamentalism and antiquated laws and policies,” arguing that such issues are exacerbated by governments acquiescing to the wishes of religious leaders.21

Women’s rights

A report by Equality Bahamas has underlined the difficulties in reporting domestic violence to the police. The police in some cases do not respond to calls regarding domestic violence. The report highlights the role of Christian expectation of women’s submission and gender stereotypes plays in this issue. These factors according to the volunteer groups are perpetuated by “people and organizations in authority such as the church. It is frequently said that women are to submit themselves to their husbands, seemingly without any form of reciprocation or responsibility on the part of the husbands.”22

A 2019 research paper from the University of The Bahamas under the title ‘Learning Gender-based Attitudes in The Bahamas’ looked into how Bahamian citizens learn their attitudes towards women.23 It found that:

“The most important influence on Bahamians was the participant’s mother. She, in turn, was influenced by the messages she received from faith-based sources. Official governmental sources of information and the opinions of politicians and school teachers appeared to be less influential.[…] Changes in attitudes towards women will require a more enlightened message to be taught and reinforced by faith-based organizations.”

Campaigns of misinformation invoking religious moralism seem to be a common theme in media coverage in The Bahamas, the 2016 referendum on gender equality and a spousal rape-related legislation 2009 are examples of initiatives that ultimately failed to pass as a result of such campaigns. A research paper from 2012 analyzed the newspaper framing of the issue of spousal rape, found that 37% of all pieces in the newspapers analyzed mentioned the position of a church, a religious association, or a clergyman. The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) was among the most prominent opponents of revisions of the law24 Religious leaders inserted themselves in the proceedings and public debate, citing protection of the “sanctity” of marriage.

LGBTI+ rights

LGBTI+ individuals face social stigma and discrimination in various domains, including in employment and housing.25; The discrimination is aggravated by the lack of adequate protection by authorities and legal protection against discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.26 Same-sex marriage is illegal.

However, the first-ever Pride week was celebrated in October 2020, despite backlash from religious groups.27

A 2021 study from the University of The Bahamas, which investigated the connection between the importance of religion in a respondents’ life with select social issues in The Bahamas, found that disapproval of same-sex marriage to be high across society, but intolerance is higher when religion is more important in the respondents’ life.28

Members of parliament have been known to express anti-LGBTI+ and specifically anti-trans views stating that they go against the will of God.29

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression is well protected in the Bahamas. The nation has a well-developed and diverse media, including state-run radio as well as independent broadcasters and newspapers. The combination of an independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined, promote freedom of expression. Independent media is able to express a wide variety of views without restriction.30

Human rights organizations generally operate without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.31


2, 5, 6, 13
16, 27
20;; YES BAHAMAS CAMPAIGN Response to the Save Our Bahamas committee (the “NO” Pastors) – Government – News
21, 28
26, 30, 31

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