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Factsheets

USCIRF defines blasphemy as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God or sacred things.” Blasphemy laws punish expression or acts deemed blasphemous, defamatory of religions, or contemptuous of religion or religious symbols, figures, or feelings.

This factsheet documents how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has affected religious freedom around the world. First, it examines the extent to which international law allows governments to impose restrictions on religious freedom in order to protect public health. Next, it provides examples how government and societal responses to the pandemic - including in China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy - have impacted the practice of religion. The factsheet urges governments to strategize a public health response to the pandemic that avoids measures placing an undue burden on or stigmatizing religious groups.

In December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed into law the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). This law provides a fast track to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Quickly after the CAA’s passage, large scale protests broke out across India with the government instituting a violent crackdown against the protestors. In conjunction with a proposed nation-wide National Register of Citizens, there are fears that this law is part of an effort to create a religious test for Indian citizenship and could lead to the widespread disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims. This factsheet provides an overview of the CAA and explains why it represents a significant downward turn in religious freedom in India.

On February 1, 2020, the Chinese government’s Administrative Measures for Religious Groups went into effect. This regulation requires religious groups to obtain government permission for nearly every aspect of their operations. In addition, they must accept and teach the principles of the Chinese Communist Party. This factsheet provides a brief overview of the new regulation and explains why it marks a significant escalation in the Chinese government’s ongoing crackdown on religious freedom.

Places of worship and other religious sites should be sanctuaries where worshippers feel safe to practice their faith. Tragically, as the 2019 incidents in New Zealand and Sri Lanka attest, attacks on places of worship are occurring with greater frequency around the globe. Alongside these horrific attacks, places of worship are often harmed more subtly through the misuse of registration procedures to prevent their construction or renovation, or the malicious surveillance of holy sites to intimidate worshippers.

The Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia has a rich, multicultural, and largely harmonious society. Nevertheless, ongoing social tensions pertaining to race, ethnicity, and religion continue to simmer below the surface, as they have for several decades. Aspects of these tensions are manifest in formal legal structures that hinder the life of anyone who is not a Sunni Muslim...

Mass atrocities are large-scale, deliberate attacks against civilians. Legally, crimes considered mass atrocities include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. When these crimes occur, states have an obligation, under international law, to see that those responsible are held accountable through criminal prosecutions...

Freedom of religion is both America’s first freedom and a universal human right. Yet many people around the world live in countries where this right is denied or restricted...

In response to the threats to peace and security that arise from violent extremism, many states have adopted legislation to counter extremism and/or terrorism. These laws aim to stem violence resulting from extremist beliefs and counter the underlying ideology...

Registration is often vital to religious groups. Registration laws govern the acquisition of legal personality, which means that entities are capable of holding legal rights and obligations within a legal system...

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