Sunday, December 27, 2009

International Religious Freedom Report 2009

Happy Break, everyone!

I'd say that I'm procrastinating - but since there's nothing to do over break... I'll say that I'm having fun with random acts of entertainment. Anyhow, I started reading the 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom (from the International Religious Freedom department (under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor -- which I didn't know even existed!) and I thought I'd share in case anyone else is interested in the state of "religious freedom" in the world. So far I've read most of the "executive summary" which has great paragraph summaries for each country of interest. There is even a section of the "executive summary" about interfaith actions!!

What surprised me most is that the United States is not analyzed at all in the report. I guess the goal of the department is not supposed to be focused on the internal state of affairs... but whose job is it to figure out what's going on in our own country and subject us to the same kind of strict guidelines? I'd really like to know how the US would measure up to its own standards.


~ Jenny

1 comment:

  1. Well the bureau is under the State Department and the report is mandated by a law requiring evaluation of other countries hence no United States.

    The report can overlook certain items. For instance the report on Indonesia states "The Constitution provides for freedom of religion" but fails to add that you have to have one and it has to be monotheistic (in reality atheists seem to fare better than Ahmadiyya). Earlier reports were a bit clearer on this (2001 has "The Constitution provides for religious freedom for members of officially recognized religions and belief in one supreme God...").

    So evaluate the United States. I used the State Department report as a framework and filled in some info.

    Section 1. What is the religious demography of the US

    No official records as the United States does not ask about religion on the official census. According to a 2007 Pew Survey

    Evangelical Protestant - 26.3%
    Catholic - 23.9%
    Mainline Protestant - 18.1%
    unaffiliated - 16.1% (including 1.6% atheist and 2.4% agnostic)
    Historically Black churches - 6.9%
    Mormon - 1.7%
    Jewish - 1.7%
    Other faiths - 1.2%
    Don't know - .8%
    Jehovah's Witness - .7%
    Buddhist - .7%
    Muslim - .6%
    Orthodox - .6%
    Hindu - .4%
    Other Christian - .3%

    There is further breakdown by particular denominations (though not all denominations)

    Section 2. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

    Legal/Policy Framework:

    What does the Constitution provide?

    The Federal Constitution states

    (First amendment) Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    which the 14th amendment extends to the state and local governments.

    The Constitution also forbids requiring a religious test for potential officeholders.

    What about laws at other levels?

    Generally protective. Some state laws and constitutions do have religious tests; however, they are not enforced and are considered null and void.

    Certain religious practices are banned or heavily restricted. These include the use of marijuana by Rastafarians, the use of peyote by the Native American Church (restricted in many states to recognized members of Native American tribes). Polygamous marriages are not recognized.

    What religious holidays are observed at the national level (other levels)?

    Christmas day at the national level. At the state level Good Friday is observed by Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Mardi Gras (last day before Lent) is observed in Louisiana. Some local school districts may observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kipppur, or Good Friday (do any observe any Muslim holy days?).

    Status of foreign missionaries. Visas, etc

    Foreign religious workers can receive a R-1 Religious Workers visa that entitles them to 3 years plus a possible 2 year extension if invited to work by a US religious organization.

    Do public schools offer religious education?

    No though some have release time where students can go off campus during the school day to receive private religious instruction.

    Restrictions on Religious Freedom:

    minority religions, treatment of.

    Any forced religious conversion including those of minors?

    Any prisoners or detainees for religious reasons?

    Section 3. Status of Societal Respect for religious freedom

    According to the FBI report 1,606 religiously based hate crimes in 2008 (note not all crimes may have been reported to the FBI).

    65.7% were anti-Jewish
    7.7% were anti-Islamic
    4.7% were anti-Catholic
    4.2% were anti-multiple religions, groups
    3.7% were anti-Protestant
    .9% were anti-atheist/agnostic/etc.
    13.2% were anti-other religion

    Section 4. U.S. Government policy (which we can skip)