Research Shows Worldwide Rise in Religious Restrictions – Is a Wave of Hate and Hostility on Its Way to America? | News | First Liberty

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Research Shows Worldwide Rise in Religious Restrictions – Is a Wave of Hate and Hostility on Its Way to America?

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August 9, 2019
Worldwide Religious Restrictions | First Liberty

by Jorge Gomez • 6 min read

When it comes to religious liberty, are we better off today than we were ten years ago?

In many ways, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Today, thanks to a string of legal victories and historic success in recent years, Americans are enjoying more religious freedom than we’ve had in decades.

We’ve made unprecedented progress in restoring the vision of America’s Founding Fathers, whose original intent in writing the First Amendment was to ensure the right of all Americans to live out their faith – free of government intrusion and without the fear of violence or harassment.

Yet, much progress still needs to be made in restoring and defending our first freedom.

In particular, it’s troubling when we survey the global landscape and see that the United States isn’t immune to the ills of religious oppression. Too often, we tend to think heinous religious restrictions and government crackdowns in totalitarian nations are too far away to affect our own freedoms as Americans.

But the truth is, and the research shows, that religious freedom is under heavy attack, both in the United States and in the world at large.


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According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, from 2007 to 2017 “government restrictions on religion – laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – increased markedly around the world.”

When Pew began tracking the issue in 2007, 40 countries had “high” or “very high” levels of restrictions on religion. In 2017, however, the number showed a sharp increase to 52 countries. This represents a 30% spike in countries worldwide where there are severe religious restrictions!

Pew uses four main categories to quantify religious restrictions, and based on its average statistical measurements, there have been significant increases globally in each of those categories:

  • 53% increase in harassment of religious groups.
  • 48% increase in government limits on activities of religious groups (such as restrictions on religious dress codes, public or private worship or religious literature).
  • 27% increase in favoritism of religious groups (countries with laws or constitutional provisions favoring one faith group at the expense of others).
  • 23% increase in general laws and policies restricting religious freedom.

Coupled with this rise in religious restrictions, Pew also found that “social hostilities involving religion – including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups” increased more than 40% over the same ten-year span.

When you look in more detail, Pew’s data also shows evidence of marked increases in governmental restrictions in the United States. In fact, Pew’s statistical averages as they relate to religious restrictions in the United States have more than doubled from 2007 to 2017.

In correlation with that increase, the average indicator of social hostilities in the United States also jumped by nearly 70%.


Click to enlarge.


Generally speaking, Pew’s data tells us there are strong indications of social hostility against people of faith taking place in the United States, and several of our recent cases exemplify this increasing trend:

  1. Rabbi Netanel Louie leads the Hebrew Discovery Center, a small Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles county that has endured multiple acts of violence and property damage in the past few years. Sadly, the hate against this Jewish community doesn’t seem to stop. Recently, a vandal threw a can of white paint at the synagogue, defacing the front entrance.
  2. Cake artist Melissia Klein ran a profitable business making beautiful, custom cakes. But because she wanted to run her business in accordance with her faith, the State of Oregon punished her with a $135,000 penalty. She, her husband and their five children received death threats and were slandered in the media just for living out their faith.
  3. Congregation Toras Chaim, an Orthodox Jewish group, gathered in a local Texas neighborhood to celebrate the Sabbath. But city officials refused to lift regulations for parking requirements after a neighbor filed a lawsuit seeking to have the meetings stopped. Barely a month passed, and someone spray-painted a swastika on the Rabbi’s car.
  4. Light of the World, a diverse and thriving church in Walthill, Nebraska, has been trying to work for years with local officials who refuse to give them permits to develop their downtown properties. Recently, bricks were thrown from a nearby building at congregants and their vehicles outside their church service. The attacks continued the week after, when churchgoers found that a member’s truck had been dented. One woman—a widow with five children—found her windshield completely smashed.

It’s true that in America we do not have the same scale of physical violence, unrest and restrictions as seen in very repressive nations. At least, not yet. Nonetheless, we have seen a recurrent and growing pattern of hatred and animosity directed against Americans who live out their faith, one that’s become all the more prevalent in the last ten years.

Our country has long been considered the world’s beacon of religious freedom and a safe haven for suffering religious groups – a place where people of all faiths can live peacefully. For our nation to continue being that shining light, we must protect the right of all Americans to live out their faith without the fear of punishment or repression.


Related story. Why Violence and Intolerance Are Spreading to the United States – And How We Can Stop It. Read more.

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