February 2015 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A new report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) provides evidence that state-sanctioned persecution of atheists is growing overseas.

According to the IHEU, legal restrictions on blasphemy and apostasy contribute to the problem: 12 countries punish apostasy by death, and 19 have laws against it on the books.

Other countries enforce sectarianism by exhibiting a legal preference for religion over non-religion or, in the case of Lebanon, by forcing citizens to register with one of 18 approved religious sects. Although the report ranks the U.S. “mostly satisfactory,” researchers noted that its government shows a “symbolic deference to religion” and that constitutional guarantees of religious freedom are not uniformly enforced. They also listed recent Supreme Court rulings in cases like Hobby Lobby v. Burwell as imminent threats to religious freedom.