Spike in religious restrictions in U.S. and world, Pew Center finds
Alleged Fort Hood killer Nidal Hasan was recently forced to shave his beard to appear in a military court.
September 20th, 2012
03:25 PM ET

Spike in religious restrictions in U.S. and world, Pew Center finds

By Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) - Restrictions on religion spiked throughout the world between mid-2009 and 2010, including in the United States, says a new study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The U.S. was among 16 countries, including Switzerland, where hostilities jumped during that time period. Pew examined 197 countries, assigning a score between from zero to 10.

Zero represents the least restrictive and 10 the most. There are two categories - governmentally restrictive and socially restrictive.

To answer the questions that make up the indexes, Pew Forum researchers combed through 19 widely cited, publicly available sources of information, including reports by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Council of the European Union, the United Kingdom's Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Freedom House and Amnesty International.

None of the countries in the study got a zero.

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Of the 25 most populous countries examined, Brazil and Japan ranked the best in government restrictions.

The worst countries in both categories include Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and India.

But it's the ranking of the United States that was particularly surprising to researcher Brian Grim.

"These were surprising findings because the U.S. (and Switzerland) are not countries where we've typically seen these levels of hostilities," he said, referring to two previous studies Pew did on the topic - research that characterized the U.S. as more tolerant to different religious expressions.

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The U.S. had previously scored a two, according to Grim. The newest study gives it a 3.4.

Grim said it's important to keep in mind that the 2009-2010 time-frame doesn't account for recent events which he said could have given the U.S. an even worse score, such as the August killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

The study does however take into account a "number of reports involving people who were prevented from wearing religious attire, like beards, in the judicial settings and prison," he said.

There were also more reported restrictions on zoning permits to expand or build religious centers.

In 2009, Muslims living in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, saw construction of a new community center and mosque vandalized and then torched.

In Colorado in 2010, an appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Boulder County commissioners discriminated against the Rocky Mountain Christian Church by denying it permits to expand its school and worship facilities, although commissioners had issued permits to a nearby secular school for a similar expansion, Pew found.

Pew culled from numerous sources, including various government reports and data from the Department of Justice.

Grim said a spike in religion-related terror attacks in the U.S. influenced the country's score. He pointed to the December 2009 attempt by a Nigerian Islamist to blow up an airliner arriving in Detroit, Michigan, and the Times Square attempted bombing in New York by a Pakistani-American who observed extremist Islam.

Pew also took into account the 2009 killings at Fort Hood. The alleged killer, an Army psychiatrist who had turned to radical Islam, was recently forced to shave his beard to appear in a military court.

Also in 2010, Oklahoma banned Islam's Sharia law in 2010. The change to Oklahoma's state law passed a statewide vote, but a federal appeals court struck down the amendment in January 2012, saying it violated the First Amendment.

Pew also wrote that "social hostilities" in the U.S. reflects an increase in reported religion-related workplace discrimination complaints.

Complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rose from 3,386 in the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2009, to 3,790 in the year ending on September 30, 2010.

The number of cases that the EEOC determined had "reasonable cause" rose from 136 to 314 during that period.

- CNN Belief Blog

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soundoff (233 Responses)
  1. ronvan

    Very happy to see that the military shaved this whack job! By doing what he did he lost ALL rights to anything and I will be waiting for them, the military, to sentence him to death!!

    September 24, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  2. PhH

    Things are beginning to shape just the way the Lord said they would be. We've seen nothing yet!

    September 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Reality

      "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      September 24, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  3. Kalo

    People will never stop believing in god nor hoping there is punishment for actions that are outside of the social acceptance level. There is no argument against faith, it does not follow the same rules as logic and fact. In Science, logic and facts make the laws; in faith the laws make the logic and 'facts.'

    There will never be a time when someone doesn't want all the answers to be given, no time in human history or future will "I don't know, and no one else does either" be considered ok for the majority of folks. Most people want the all knowing father figure up on high like they were when they were a child, and everyone wants answers...Only Atheists, Agnostic, and fair weather Religious people can have the mental capacity to cope with knowing there is no plan, there is no certainty, there is only you and everyone around you. Make earth yours and your brother's heaven and stop making it hell for others.

    It might be a pipe dream but until people can move past the bronze age thought of evolution isn't real, that the Catholic church is acting like the Jewish council that killed Jesus (Abusing power), science should dictate the rules of the physical world and people should keep the soul out of numbers; I truly do fear when a person can 'hear' god and press the big round button in the oval office to make hell on earth for another group of people. This happened with Bush and Iraq, god told him to do it; for better or worse this means that faith dictated the logic which is a very scary president.

    September 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Reality

      "We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, What is our policy?

      I will say; "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that GOD can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy."

      You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."

      Winston Churchill

      September 24, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!^

      September 24, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • jeffision

      Forced religious training of children is child abuse.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • God bless America

      Dear Prayer changes things: Indeed it does. I have seen this prove true so many times in matters beyond all human control and things in which chance alone fails to provide a sufficient answer. Sometimes life itself throws us for a loop and there seems to be no way. But our God makes a way for us.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.