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Globally, Restrictions on Religion Reach 14-Year High

21 Mar, 2024

By Brian Grim

Government restrictions on religion globally have reached a 14-year high, according to the annual report released this month by the Pew Research Center.

For example, 92.4% of governments (183 out of 198) worldwide now harass religious groups with no indication of relief, as shown in the chart below.

Indeed, the question no longer is where it is happening but, unfortunately, where isn’t it? Read Pew’s full report here.


This is research I began and led when I was a senior researcher in religion & world affairs at the Pew Research Center. Such trends led me to start the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, looking for new ways to advance freedom of religion or belief for all, including those without a religious belief.

Why does this matter?

Of course, there are legitimate limits to religious freedom, i.e., it does not give liberty to do harm. But, research shows that as governments put more restrictions on the free practice of religion and belief, conflict and violent persecution will be the result.

Research also shows that when the restrictions become harassment and interference, they also become a drag on the economy. However, when restrictions are low, not only is peace and prosperity possible, but also this is associated with a bundle of social goods, as shown in the chart below.


Data and experience show that protecting freedom of religion or belief for all (including those without a religious belief) is both an antidote to conflict and polarization as well as a boon to economies and societies.

But as restrictions rise, what can be done to reverse the trends?

What can be done?

The adage think globally act locally is a viable way to tackle this massive issue. While there are many efforts by advocates and policy makers to address these trends, there is something that millions of people can do each day as they go to work. They can build religious freedom by creating faith-friendly workplaces.

This can be done by helping everyone at a workplace have a sense of true belonging by not only respecting and accommodating their deeply held beliefs and associated practices but also by giving opportunities for people to be supportive of co-workers and team-members through initiatives such as faith-and-belief employee resource groups (ERGs) and other such mechanism.

Workplaces benefit from being faith-friendly in many ways, including by having resources such as ERGs that promote “spiritual health“, one of the four essential pillars of health recognized by McKinsey & Co.’s Health Institute.

As a practical step, please join us in Washington DC for the 5th national Faith@Work conference “Dare to Overcome“, an annual gathering of Fortune 500 leaders of faith-and-belief ERGs. Register today!