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. 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.
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. 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.
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 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 address assemblies during formal religious services.
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.
Several sections of the Criminal Code penalize expressions deemed to be “blasphemous”. They include:
A publication of defamatory matter is privileged, on condition that it was published in good faith, in any of the following cases, namely
(1) if the matter published is in fact a fair report of anything said, done or shown in a civil or criminal inquiry or proceeding before any court or commission of inquiry: Provided that if the court or commissioners prohibit the publication of anything said or shown before it, on the ground that it is seditious, immoral or blasphemous, the publication thereof shall not be privileged.
Whoever publishes, sells, or offers for sale any blasphemous or obscene book, writing or representation, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years: Provided that no one shall be convicted under this section for publishing any opinion on religious subjects expressed in good faith and in decent language, or for attempting to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language any opinion on a religious subject.