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Dominican Republic - Religion

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.5 million (July 2015 estimate). According to a 2014 Pew Research survey, the population is 57 percent Catholic; 23 percent Protestant, including Assemblies of God, Church of God, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Mennonites; and 18 percent without religious affiliation. Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have small numbers in the country.

Most of the approximately 350 Jews live in Santo Domingo, with a small community in Sosua. There are approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Muslims, of whom approximately 100 are noncitizens, most of them students. There are small numbers of Buddhists and Hindus. Most Haitian immigrants are Catholic. An unknown number practice Voodoo or other African Caribbean beliefs such as Santeria.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief. A concordat with the Holy See designates Catholicism as the official religion and extends special privileges to the Catholic Church not granted to other religious groups. Non-Catholic religious groups must register as nongovernmental organizations with the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate General of Customs. These groups stated they were treated less advantageously with regard to customs duties and visas.

Although 95 percent of Dominicans is Catholic, a smaller percentage regularly attends church or strictly follows doctrine. Many poor people practice the Haitian-based voodoo (voudon) but also attend Catholic mass on Sunday. The Roman Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic is not as influential or prevalent as it is in other Latin American countries; dissension over various social and political issues affects it. Unlike other Latin churches, the Dominican Catholic church has no large landholding or industrial interests.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom. Non-Catholic religious groups continued to note the Catholic Church had advantages that they, as nongovernmental organizations, did not. The Catholic Church enjoys broader customs exemption while non-Catholic organizations must pay customs duties and then seek refunds on imported food or other goods intended for religious use. These religious groups also continued to report difficulties when applying for and receiving customs duty refunds from the Ministry of Finance. Additionally, non-Catholic missionaries and religious leaders could not obtain visas under the same immigration category as Catholic religious leaders, making it more expensive and difficult to bring missionaries to the country.

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