This concern is of particular importance given the connection between religious freedom and positive economic and social outcomes shown in recent Weekly Number analyses. This connection was also discussed last week at Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project symposium, Everybody's Business: The legal, economic, and political implications of religious freedom.
While restrictions on religion have been rising globally, just six years earlier, the U.S. was lower than the global median (1.6 vs. 1.8).
Overall, while the U.S. score of 3.7 is substantially higher than the global median, the Pew study characterizes U.S. restrictions as "moderate." Indeed, the U.S, score is much lower when compared with governments with very high restrictions on religious freedom such as Egypt (8.8), China (8.6), Iran (8.6), Saudi Arabia (8.6), Indonesia (8.3) and the Maldives (8.1), Afghanistan (8.1), Syria (8.0), and Eritrea (7.9).
The rise in religious restrictions in the U.S. is attributable to several factors. First and foremost, there have been increased difficulties in accommodating religious groups at the local level. These include zoning laws, rulings on property rights, and acceptance of religious expression in schools, courts and other public settings.
In the United States, however, there are structures in place to address grievances. For instance, if a religious community feels like it's experiencing discrimination, a complaint can be filed with the Justice Department.
Other restrictions are tied to tax advantages or funding to religious groups from the federal government, which not surprisingly come with strings attached. For example, if a religious group receives federal funding, proselytizing is restricted in any program that uses government funds. Groups receiving government money to run drug rehabilitation projects or care for the homeless are not allowed to share their religious testimony with the intent of bringing someone into their faith as part of those programs. And if a religious group has tax-exempt status - which nearly all apply for and have - it is not allowed to talk about politics from the pulpit or endorse a political candidate.