How does US Religious Freedom Compare to other Countries? 


Religious freedom can be compared to decision making in our everyday lives. In our daily life, we are given an array of options and choices on what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, where to go and what to do. Yet, the matter of choice that we pick will still depend on us. We also live in an era wherein we are given the opportunity individually to conform to what is being regulated both as a law and policy, and also to firmly believe and hold on with what makes us grounded, rooted and purposeful in living life, daily. Religious Freedom can be associated with these daily scenarios and situations in life. Individuals are placed in a midst of conforming to what the government imposes us to do and also in the midst of pushing through with our faith by choice and preference. Yet as a leeway to safety, we conform to both. Evidently, US Religious Freedom varies from the other countries in two aspects that can be deciphered in comparison.

First, there are countries that have their own state religion. It means that these countries practice a common Religion. And second, there are countries that practice different religions yet when surveyed and studied in a statistical manner, a percentage will show which religion is practiced most and practiced less.   Yet, no matter how countries vary from the United States in Religious Freedom, the truth of the matter is, each person in the country of the world and all across the continents of the globe, practices Religion and believes in the immense impact of Religion in their individual lives.

In this article, I will be sharing and discussing to you a comparison of US Religious Freedom to other countries in a closer look. Let us begin.


A Quick Review on the United States Religious Freedom



As previously discussed in my article regarding the history of religious rights laws in the United States, I made mention on Religious Freedom as provided clearly in the United States Constitution. Just to refresh your memory, the first amendment says that everyone living in the United States of America is given the right to practice his or her religion or to have no religion at all. On the other hand, the Establishment Clause of the first amendment gives prohibition to the government, from encouraging, promoting or establishing religion in any way.

A Preliminary to the Article


According to the Pew Research Center of the United States, based on their released article on July 15, 2019, with the basis of a decade from the year 2007 up to the year 2017, the restrictions of  government in the different countries of the world have increased in terms of religion. In the aspect of Religion with its laws, actions and policies promulgated by the state officials, its practices and beliefs have been hampered in a deep marked state all around the world. On the other hand, social hostilities that involve religion have risen maximally, most especially in the realms of harassment and violence wherein organizations, groups and  private individuals experience themselves. This data was gathered since 2007 when the research was started to be conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Looking closely at the data released by the Pew Research Center of the United States, it gives a clear picture that 52 governments that include the populated countries Indonesia, China and Russia, impose either a high or a very high level of in-depth restriction on religion that is up from 40 in the year 2007. On the other side of the coin, the number of countries, wherein people greatly experience the highest levels of Social Hostility that involves religion has risen from 39 to 56 over the course of the study conducted by the Pew Research Center. There are specific Government Restrictions that affect the religious freedom of the other countries, which we will look at closely and compare it to the United States Religious Freedom.

Government Favoritism of Religious Groups

In the Other Countries Setting and Context

According to US, government favoritism of religious groups is the most prevailing category with regards to government restrictions. The context wherein this is taken from is centered on the 17 Middle Eastern countries wherein in these countries, an official state religion is practiced and followed. For example, in Eritrea, a country located in East Africa, the national government solely recognizes and registers four religious groups only. Thus, in the duration of this past decade, the global average score in these two categories has increased with a max of 20 percent.

In the United States Setting and Context

According to the Pew Research Center, the United States has more restrictions that are very extensive  as well as with social hostilities compared to Canada, which is its northern country neighbor together with the other countries in the Americas, in accordance to the data gathered in 2013. But on the other hand and on a lighter side, the United States has a lower level of government restrictions compared to Mexico together with the other countries in the Western part of Europe which includes Germany and Italy.


Laws and Policies Restricting Religious Freedom

In the Other Countries Setting and Context

In the aspect of laws and policies restrictions on religious freedom, according to the 2013 data gathered by Pew Research Center, among the 25 most populated countries in the world, it was found out that Turkey, India, Egypt, Indonesia and Russia had the most and numerous restrictions with laws and policies on religious freedom.

In the United States Setting and Context

Together with the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Japan and Brazil, the United States had the fewest and minimal restrictions when it came to laws and policies on religious freedom. This is still in accordance with the Pew Research Center’s data gathered in the year 2013.

Government Limits on Religious Activities

In the Other Countries Setting and Context

According to, a prevalent incident that would prove the high limits that the government of other countries set on religious activities was in the year 2011 wherein France was placed in the limelight. The country banned the use of the full-face coverings which in a larger scale, gave the Muslim women living in the country, the prohibition of wearing the niqab or burqa in the public places of the country.

In the United States Setting and Context

In the context of the United States, government limits on religious groups in the country are nowhere near as extensive in comparison to countries such as Iran, Burma and China.

Government Harassment of Religious Groups

In Other Countries Setting and Context:

According to US, three incidents can prove the existence of Government Harassment in religious groups from three different countries as follows:


  • Maldives- according to the U.S. State department as noted, it is greatly considered a criminal offense to promote another religion besides Islam.


  • Myanmar- according to Pew Research Center’s report, it was found out that in the country, more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingyas chose to take a plight to its neighboring country, which is Bangladesh, due to the reason that the military forces of Myanmar launched and made an initiative to come up with an clearance campaign in the year 2017 against the aforementioned Muslim Group.


  • China- in the early part of July 2017, closely two dozen countries made a wake up call to the country, in order for them to stop the conduct of a mass detention to the ethnic Uighurs. In accordance with the report made by Reuters, the experts of the United Nations stated that at least 1 million of the Muslims and  ethnic Uighurs were held in various detention centers in the country.

The bottomline of these incidents in these countries is that intimidation, violence and other forms and means of harassment were discovered to happen in a handful of countries which included China and Myanmar, according to the report that the Pew Research Center released after the conduct of the study.


In the United States Setting and Context

The United States, in terms of government harassment of religious groups, has much lower levels compared to the other countries of the world such as Nigeria, India and Pakistan.

Social Hostilities of Various Governments and Countries on Religion

According to USNews. Com and Pew Research Center, the Social Hostilities Index used during the decade duration of the study conducted, examined and studied actions that led to religious hostility to organizations and private individuals through four categories as explained below:

  • Hostilities Related to Religious Norms- this kind of hostility occurs in instances wherein the individuals who are assaulted in the act of expressing their religious beliefs which in a larger scale, go against the majority faith in a specific country as well as a grave harassment for the violation of dress codes and hostilities that are over and beyond conversion and promoting will define this type of hostility.
  • Inter-Religious Tension and Violence- there are two dimensions and tenets that are taken into great consideration with regards to this kind of hostility:
  • Intra-Religious Hatred- this comprises the negative attitudes composed by the ingroup members about the outgroups and  non-members.
  • Inter-Religious Violence- this type of violence is defined as an aggressive behavior shown and depicted between the in-group members and outgroups and non-members.


  • Religious Violence by Organized Groups -this is defined as a covering phenomena wherein religion is both at the subject and object of violent behavior. This type of violence is motivated by or it can be a reaction to religious precepts, texts and doctrines that are of an attacker or a target. This phenomena includes violence against events, objects, people and religious institutions. This terminology does not provide exclusion on actions that are committed by the religious groups, but instead, on a larger scale, it includes the actions that were committed against the religious groups.


  • Individual and Social Group Harassment-this refers to the antagonistic behaviors that targets an individual or group with regards to the following aspects and tenets:
  • Identity- this pertains to what title or profession you practice and carry.
  • Culture-this refers to your descent both in tradition, belief, way of life and practice.
  • Race-this pertains to your individual genuity.
  • Ethnic Origin-this refers to your ethnic roots.
  • Religion-this pertains to the realms of your faith.
  • Physical Characteristics-this refers to how you look.
  • Sexual Orientation-this pertains to which you are comfortable as a choice of sexuality.
  • Gender-this refers to being male or female.
  • Age-this refers to how old you are.
  • Ability or Disability-this refers to what you are able and not able to do.
  • Marital, Parenting or Economic Status-this refers to your status if you are single or married, a father or a mother, working or not working in general.

The social hostilities index shows the large and high increase in social hostilities that are highly intertwined with religious norms that specifically made occurrence in Europe, wherein incidents of violence and threats multiplied maximally through the duration and cycle of the study. Unlikely, in the other categories, since in the year 2007, interreligious tension and violence greatly decreased in most of the regions of the world, pointing out a major exception in the sub-saharan section of Africa.

On the other side of the coin, the Middle East of North Africa region and Europe, depicted the largest increase in a maximal level, in terms of religious violence caused by organized groups. The other terrorist groups and ISIS have committed these various deadly attacks, which includes the incident that transpired on a Palm Sunday, as well as the attack on a specific Sufi mosque in the northern part of Sinai.


Concludingly, the Americas were discovered to obtain the lowest levels of social group and individual harassment, while on the other hand, North Africa and the Middle East almost similarly had the highest and maximal cases and incidents of hostilities.

  1. How to Bridge the Gap between the Government and the Different Religions and Groups present in the country? 

According to Peace Educators, in order to address and bridge the gap between the government  with varied religious groups present in their country, as well as on promoting Religious Freedom in the country respectively, here are 6 effective strategies that can be adapted by the state with the guarantee of having an open mind and heart:

  • The pursuit for dialogue among all religions of the world can be a great influence.- convening in dialogue will promote an atmosphere of unison and togetherness.
  • The call for dialogue is the great need for Education within the varied faith traditions- with dialogue on hand, educational transformation is a guarantee for the participating religions concerned in that organized and convened dialogue.
  • Strategize the fostering of economic development, most especially what benefits the poor and the marginalized in a society.- a strategic approach to the thrust of fostering economic development will greatly benefit and improve the lives of the poor and marginalized in the specific society that a country has with its people.
  • Strengthen the democracy on both the local and national levels which is a great necessity. – the strengthened democracy of a respective country in all levels will lead to more progress, development and prosperity to the country in general and on an in-depth and outer larger scale and dimension.
  • Alongside with economic development, there is a great need to creatively promote the values of democracy.-the creative mind and soul that is behind the promotion of values and democracy will be a contributory factor that will lead a country to its vast, rapid and mobile economic development.
  • Religion as an aspect is an effective source of peace in motivating the believers toward tolerance and peaceful acceptance of other people.- with the impactful motivation that believers obtain in reaching the direction of being tolerant and accepting with the differences of other people, is the long-lasting effect or Religion as the greatest source and benchmark of peace.

Concluding Part of the Article

In totality, if we compare the Religious Freedom Context of the United States with the other countries, we will come to the following 3 major generalizations:

  • In a race or marathon, the United States is almost reaching the finish line of autonomous religious freedom. While on the other hand, the other countries are still either at the beginning or at the midpoint of it.
  • In a platform or stage, the United States is reaching a creative height in expressing its great intent for religious freedom. While on the other hand, the other countries are still about to break free from their shells in order to express their intent for it.
  • In an advertisement or campaign, the United States is bold to open up to the public viewer’s eyes their innermost longing and in-depth wanting of total religious freedom for the entirety of the country. While on the other hand, the other countries are still doubtful and in fear of stating everything in that ad or propaganda because it might affect them because of government restrictions.





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