Saint Kitts and Nevis

Last Updated 30 May 2023

Saint Kitts and Nevis, also known as The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is a two-island nation in the Caribbean which maintains a multi-party parliamentary democracy political system under a constitutional monarchy.

According to the most recently available census (2011), 83% of the 47,000 population identified as Christian, the largest proportion of which were Anglican followed by Methodist. The second largest belief group, the non-religious, accounted for 9% of the population. Other religious groups included small communities of Muslims, Hindus, Rastafarians, and Bahais.1

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

Article 11 of the Constitution2 protects the rights to freedom of conscience, including the right to freedom of thought and of religion, expression and assembly. While the Constitution does not name any religion as a state religion, the preamble contains an invocation stating that, “the nation is established on the belief in Almighty God.”

Ministers of religion are barred from elected office according to Article 28 of the Constitution. However, it would appear that government officials maintain a close relationship with religious groups.

The Government of St Kitts and Nevis, through its Ministry of Ecclesiastical and Faith-Based Affairs, hosts a national day of prayer annually. In 2023, this included a requirement for prayer in all schools as well as pre-recorded prayer by different pastors every hour on all Radio Stations and NTV8.3,Tuesday%2C%20February%2028%2C%202023;

In December 2022, government officials attended a special service of praise and thanksgiving after the nation was spared from the worst of the hurricane season. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Ecclesiastical and Faith-Based Affairs reportedly remarked that the annual service is “one of paramount importance when we come together before our God on a national level to show our gratitude and appreciation for His faithfulness.” He added that:

“As the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends it is important to ensure that we fail not as a people to give the Almighty thanks and praise for his mercies and protection over this beautiful Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. He has spared us yet another year from the ravages of hurricanes and other natural disasters and has brought us safely to the close of this year’s hurricane season and for this, we are truly grateful.”4

The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs announced a desire for closer cooperation with religious groups in 2023.5

Education and children’s rights

The Constitution protects citizens from receiving instruction in or being forced to participate in religious observance contrary to their own beliefs. The Education Act (2005)6 establishes that religious education in public schools “shall not include any catechism or formulary which is distinctive of any particular religious denomination” (Article 149), however, it is of a Christian persuasion.7

Article 19 of the Education Act makes it clear that, “A student may express any religious, political, moral, or other belief or opinion so long as the expression does not adversely affect the rights or education of other students, or the rights of other persons in the school.”

The Education Act (2005) establishes a category of educational establishment known as “assisted schools.” An assisted private school can be an educational institution owned and managed by an individual, legal person, denominational bodies, or trusts that receive state assistance in the form of financial assistance or non-financial aid. Assisted schools are required to follow the national curriculum in all subjects, but religious education. However, any students who are adherents of other belief systems are able to opt-out of such classes.

Students of public and assisted schools are required to attend a morning assembly every day, which may not be distinctive of any particular religious denomination. Daily morning prayers are also held. Students who do not want to attend are exempt from all religious activities.8

Private schools run by religious groups are not required to follow the national curriculum, but may receive government subsidies.

According to the Education Act, a representative nominated by a religious organization should sit on the Education Advisory Board tasked with advising the Minister of Education on matters of education. It is unclear whether a non-religious organization would be permitted to make a nomination in this category.

The government runs a National School Chaplaincy Programme that operates across all state and private schools. Chaplains ”support for students, teachers, and parents, in personal, moral, emotional, and spiritual development matters.”9; It is unclear whether chaplains may also be non-religious.

Family, community and society

We have found no reports of direct discrimination against non-religious individuals.

LGBTI+ rights

In August 2022, the High Court of Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court struck down sections 56 and 57 of the colonial-era Offenses Against the Person Act that punished adult consensual same-sex activity.10

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

In 2022, Freedom House rated Saint Kitts and Nevis as “Free.” However it also noted that:

“the state owns the sole local television station, and the opposition faces some restrictions on access to it. Defamation is a criminal offense that can potentially carry a prison sentence. Some journalists reportedly self-censor in order to avoid pressure from government officials. Radio news coverage is relatively vibrant and pluralistic.”11

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