Worldwide Study Shows Rapid Increase in Religious Discrimination

A recently published study shows that government-based religious discrimination increased by 25 percent between 1990 and 2014. During the same period, social religious discrimination increased by 30 percent and outright violence shot up by 50 percent.

These findings were published by Bar-Ilan University’s Jonathan Fox in the book Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me: Why Governments Discriminate Against Religious Minoritiesthe culmination of what has been described as the most exhaustive and detailed study of religious discrimination ever undertaken. Fox bases his conclusions on a data set recording the treatment of 771 religious minorities in 183 countries over a 25-year period.

Young men praying
Photo by DavidCohen156/

The study specifies 35 types of government-based religious discrimination, including restrictions on the construction of religious buildings, controls on religious literature and prohibitions on chaplaincy services in prisons.

Fox found that in 162 of the 183 countries in the study, government-based religious discrimination was perpetrated at some point during the research period against 74.4 percent of the minorities studied.

The study also identifies 27 types of socially based religious discrimination. These include discrimination in employment, vandalism of places of worship, harassment on public transport and outright violence.

Many Western first-world countries with completely secular ideologies have more discriminatory practices and laws than developing nations.

One of the most disturbing findings is that Western democracies such as France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland engage in more government-based discrimination than many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Further, many religious groups are also being singled out as supposed “cults.” These include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hasidic Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Scientologists and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, Belgium, France and Germany all have explicit “anti-cult” policies.

A Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Philippines (Photo by Tony-gl/

Fox found that, while it might be predicted that Muslim-majority countries and Orthodox Christian-majority countries would have the most government-based religious discrimination, many Western first-world countries with completely secular ideologies have more discriminatory practices and laws than developing nations.

The groundbreaking study raises the question: just how democratic and “free” are many so-called Western democracies?

“This study is a sobering look at the worldwide plague of religious discrimination,” said STAND International Director Edward Parkin. “It is the responsibility of each of us, not just for ourselves but for our brothers and sisters in all religions, to bring an end to discrimination in any form.”