Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


The Price of Freedom Denied … is High Indeed

price of freedom denied logoDenials of religious freedom are associated with poorer economic performance and lower global competitiveness, according to a study by researchers at Georgetown University and Brigham Young University. The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences.

The new study also furthers previous work in the field, including The Price of Freedom Denied (by Brian Grim & Roger Finke, Cambridge, 2011). Grim & Finke’s research showed that religious freedom is a key ingredient to peace and stability, as measured by the absence of violent religious persecution and conflict.

This is particularly important for business because where stability exists, there is more opportunity to invest and conduct normal and predictable business operations, especially in emerging and new markets.

The empirical basis for the socio-economic benefits of religious freedom is also found in three publications below that look at the price of freedom denied. Also see the research white paper on the corporate social responsibility of religious freedom.

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Price of Freedom Denied

The Price of Freedom Denied shows that, contrary to popular opinion, ensuring religious freedom for all reduces violent religious persecution and conflict. Others have suggested that restrictions on religion are necessary to maintain order or preserve a peaceful religious homogeneity. Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke show that restricting religious freedoms is associated with higher levels of violent persecution. Relying on a new source of coded data for nearly 200 countries and case studies of six countries, the book offers a global profile of religious freedom and religious persecution. Grim and Finke report that persecution is evident in all regions and is standard fare for many. They also find that religious freedoms are routinely denied and that government and the society at large serve to restrict these freedoms. They conclude that the price of freedom denied is high indeed.

  • Offers a global profile of religious freedom and persecution, including information on nearly 200 countries and selected case studies (Japan, Brazil, Nigeria, China, India and Iran)
  • Explains variation in religious persecution across countries and religious traditions, offering an explanation of why persecution tends to be higher among some populations
  • Demonstrates and documents how religious freedoms are denied by the government and the society at large
  • Provides data showing that religious freedoms serve to defuse the potential conflict and reduce the level of violent religious persecution

Like any liberty, religious freedoms force those in power to protect the rights of minorities, even when the majority does not agree. Enforcing this liberty comes with a price, but the price of denying the freedom is far higher.

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Religious Freedom: Good for us?

The presence of religious freedom in a country mathematically correlates with the presence of other fundamental, responsible freedoms (including civil and political liberty, press freedom, and economic freedom) and with the longevity of democracy.

Harvard Economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen argues, however, that human freedom is not just the general opportunity for such freedoms, but also the specific processes within a country that result in better lives. Thus, if religious freedom is an integral part of the “bundled commodity” of human freedoms, religious freedom should be closely associated with the general betterment of people’s lives. The Hudson Institute data again confirm just such a correlation. The study found that wherever religious freedom is high, there tends to be fewer incidents of armed conflict, better health outcomes, higher levels of earned income, and better educational opportunities for women. Moreover, religious freedom is associated with higher overall human development, as measured by the human development index.

Advanced statistical tests suggest that there is indeed a critical independent contribution that religious freedom is making. A growing body of research supports the proposition that the religious competition inherent in religious freedom results in increased religious participation; and religious participation in turn can lead to a wide range of positive social and political outcomes.

Furthermore, as religious groups make contributions to society and become an accepted part of the fabric of society, religious freedom is consolidated. This can be conceptualized as a religious freedom cycle.

Award Winning Research

Despite the high visibility of religiously charged international social conflicts, the unique role of religion often is overlooked in social science research and theory. Some studies ignore religion, others conflate religion with other identities. Virtually all lack adequate data. We respond to these deficiencies by testing a theory-driven model of a particular form of social conflict, religious persecution. We investigate the proposition that religious regulation leads to religious persecution. Using measures coded from the 2003 International Religious Freedom Reports, we consider how both social regulation and government regulation of religion in 143 countries affect the level of religious persecution. We also consider and test competing hypotheses, particularly Huntington s clash-of-civilizations thesis. We find strong support for the religious economies arguments and only limited support for the clash-of-civilizations thesis and other competing arguments.

This article demonstrates that explanations of social conflict cannot ignore the unique role of religion, especially when investigating conflicts such as religious persecution. Specifically, we find that religious regulation – composed of social and government regulation – offers a strong explanation for variation in the level of religious persecution. Government regulation is the strongest predictor of religious persecution even when controlling for other possible explanations. The results show that a state’s regulation of religion is a reaction to pressures created by the social forces seeking to regulate religion. These regulatory actions contribute to religious persecution and can set up a vicious cycle of persecution once unleashed.

Finally, while governments typically view religious regulation as a necessity to maintain order and reduce potential violence, the irony is that more regulation leads to increased persecution, which means less order and more violence, as shown by the data.