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Religious Persecution International

The U.S. is a rarity among nations. Among its unique attributes is a commitment to religious liberty.

A new study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life explores religious persecution around the world. According to Pew: "64 nations -- about one-third of the countries in the world -- have high or very high restrictions on religion. But because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities."

Include moderate restrictions, which most Americans also would consider to be intolerable, and more than half of the world's nations limit religious liberty. Fully 86 percent of the globe's people face significant limits on their right to worship God.

The Americas, including the U.S., happily have the least restrictions in both cases. The U.S. is joined by Brazil, Britain, Italy, Japan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom in the free category. 

In contrast, explains Pew, "the Middle East-North Africa has the highest government and social restrictions on religion." Combine government limits with social attacks, and the worst nations include Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. It is no accident that four of the five are Islamic. Although communist states tend to employ among the most restrictive policies, it is Islam where publics and governments alike are united in their commitment to persecute religious minorities.

Not all religious persecution is created equal. The Pew survey helpfully separates government regulation and social antagonism. Explains Pew: "government policies and social hostilities do not always move in tandem. Vietnam and China, for instance, have high government restrictions on religion but are in the moderate or low range when it comes to social hostilities. Nigeria and Bangladesh follow the opposite pattern: high in social hostilities but moderate in terms of government actions."

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Read the entire article on the American Spectator website (new window will open).

Published: April 19, 2010

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