A new study from the Pew Research Center unveiled the countries across the world with the most religious freedom, and found that Brazil leads the way with “virtually no measurable restrictions on religious freedom.”
The study rated the 26 most populous countries across the world on their government restriction index, which, as a Pew Research Center study explained in February, is a 1 to 10 point ranking that looks at a country’s government policies on religion and what private religious groups and organizations do in the public sphere. Lower numbers imply less religious freedom restrictions from the government.
Here are the 13 countries in the world with the highest levels of religious freedom, according to the Pew study. Check out the slideshow at the bottom of the article for the 13 countries with the lowest levels of religious freedom.
Brazil leads the way in terms of religious freedom with a .2 ranking on the scale. Religion isn’t hard to find in the South American country, with the Christ the Redeemer statue towering over Rio de Janiero, one of the country's most popular cities.
South Africa’s religious freedom ranking rests at .7, which is a slight increase from 2007. Georgetown University’s Berkley Center explained that South Africa’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, and that many court cases over religious rituals are more about how those rituals affect culture rather than over religious rights.
The Philippines is one South Pacific country with a high tolerance for religion. It has a 1.0 ranking on the government index scale. Similar to the countries above, the Filipino Constitution requires separation between church and state, according to Georgetown University.
Not too far away from the Philippines is Japan, which has a 1.1 ranking for religious freedom. The country has a low amount of government restrictions on religion as a result of World War II, when the country’s many religions debated over their rights, according to Georgetown.
The Congo has a similar ranking as Japan at 1.1. Like the countries above, the DRC’s constitution protects religious freedom, according to Georgetown.
The United Kingdom doesn’t have many restrictions on religious freedom either, earning the country a 1.7 ranking on the scale. The U.K. has been known for having high religious tolerance in recent years.
Italy has a 2.0 ranking on the scale. It’s not surprising that Italy doesn’t have a high amount of government restrictions since the Vatican — home of the pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and one of the most popular religious leaders in the world — is in the country.
South Korea also has a 2.0 ranking. South Korea’s constitution guarantees religious freedom and a separation between church and state, according to Georgetown University. The country is made of many religions, including Buddhism and different sects of Christianity.
The United States has a 3.0 ranking on the scale, even though the country’s constitution calls for the freedom to practice religion. The country has seen some litigation over religious freedom issues in recent years, especially cases surrounding same-sex marriage.
Mexico ranks right behind the United States with a 3.4 ranking. But the country has a complicated history with religious freedom, dating back to after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 when religious freedom was first guaranteed, according to Georgetown University. In the last decade, the country has seen an increase of smaller religions, which has increased the desire from religious groups for more rights, according to Georgetown.
Nigeria earned a 4.1 ranking, which is an increase from 2007. The country doesn’t enact laws against the religious, according to Georgetown University, since the restrictions that have been created have increased acts of violence in the country.
France has a 4.2 ranking on the scale. Despite the history of Catholicism in the country, France has looked to separate religion from the public sphere, according to Georgetown University, meaning the government can't put restrictions on religious organizations.
Thailand ranks middle of the road in terms of religious freedom with a 4.4 ranking. The country has an interfaith council, which looks to bring the country’s many religions together to discuss laws and public life, according to Georgetown University.
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.