In the Dominican Republic, there is a state-sanctioned official religion: Roman Catholicism. But the number of alternate religions practiced by the people of the small nation has grown, particularly in recent years.
In the latest census data, 95 percent of the population was defined as practitioners of Roman Catholicism. This may no longer be as reflective as it once was, especially with the growth of Protestantism, Judaism, and even Islam. In the early years of the 21st century, a new synagogue and mosque have been built.
Official recognized religions, like the many Protestant groups who have spread throughout the countryside, offer only a glimpse of the religious diversity of the island. Many Dominicans also practice Afro-Caribbean Creole religions. In particular, residents who have immigrated from Haiti are likely to practice Vodou (Voodoo), and some other islanders practice Santería or hold beliefs in brujería (witchcraft).
Religious freedom has allowed the growth of these many groups, even though a law ratified in 2000 requires that the Bible be read in public schools. Although private schools are exempt from this requirement, the government is strongly influenced by the Catholic church. Still, this law is not well-enforced.
One restriction on religious practices is marriage: Only religious marriages performed in Catholic ceremonies are legally recognized. Still, non-religious civil unions are a legal way for marriages to be recognized outside the Catholic church.
At last count there were approximately 300 Jews in the country, most of whom live in Santo Domingo. There is a synagogue in Santo Domingo and Sosua, but the Dominican Republic lacks an ordained rabbi. Many of these Jewish settlers were immigrants from Europe during World War II.
In recent years, the Muslim community has also grown – the government currently estimates approximately 5,000 Muslims live in the country. A Sunni mosque has been built in Santo Domingo and a small Shi'a facility also exists.
Missionaries from foreign countries have also made their way to the island. These groups include Episcopalians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, and Mormons, though other missionary groups also exist. The main Protestant groups on the island are currently the Pentecostal church, Baptist church, Church of God, and Assembly of God. One of the most notable growths has been among the Mormon population.
Although there is religious diversity, the country remains staunchly Catholic. Yet the Dominican Republic is growing and changing, and the religious choices of its people reflect this change.
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