Social hostilities were measured by religion-related terrorism and violence between religious groups. The countries in North and South America reportedly had some of the lowest levels of social restrictions on religion, while The Middle East and North Africa were the regions with the highest. Of the world's 25 most populous countries, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and India had the most restrictions, while Brazil, Japan, the United States, Italy, France, South Africa and the United Kingdom had some of the lowest levels. While the Middle East, North Africa and the Americas exhibit either extremely high or low levels of government and social restrictions, these two variables do not always move together: Vietnam and China, for instance, had high government restrictions on religion but were in the moderate or low range when it came to social hostilities. Nigeria and Bangladesh follow the opposite pattern: high in social hostilities but moderate in terms of government actions. The study found that government restrictions were relatively low in the U.S., but the levels of religious hostilities were higher than those reported in a number of other large democracies, such as Brazil and Japan. While most countries provided for the protection of religious freedom in their constitutions or laws, only a quarter of those countries were found to fully respect these legal rights in practice. In 75 countries - four in 10 in the world - governments limit the efforts of religious groups to proselytise and in 178 countries - 90 percent - religious groups must register with the government. India and China, also exhibited extreme, but different restrictions on religion. China showed very high levels of government restriction but low to moderate levels of social hostilities, while India showed very high social hostilities but only moderate to high levels of government restrictions. Israel stood out among the nations surveyed with "high scores on the social hostilities index" in comparison with other countries that are more authoritarian or less ordered. At the top of the social hostilities index were Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Somalia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
Past situations of religious discrimination:
The Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, and the persecution and exodus of Germany's 525,000 Jews began almost immediately. Hitler had been open about his hatred of Jews, and made clear his intention to drive them from Germany's society. In the 1930s, the rights of Jews were restricted; the Nazis considered anyone of Jewish descent, even the descendents of converts were still considered Jews. In 1933, a series of laws were passed to exclude Jews from key areas, medicine, agriculture and law. Jewish lawyers were disbarred; some were even dragged out of their offices and courtrooms, and beaten. Jews were excluded from schools and universities and newspaper agencies.
Before the 1933 elections, the Nazis began intensifying acts of violence to destroy the opposition. With the cooperation of local authorities, they set up camps as concentration centres within Germany. These early camps were meant to hold, torture, or kill only political prisoners, such as Communists and Social Democrats. After 1939, the camps increasingly became places where Jews and POWs were killed or forced to live as slave labourers, undernourished and tortured. Other methods involved death by firing squads or living in confined spaces.
Under the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany it states
Article 3 [Equality before the law]
(3) No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.
Article 4 [Freedom of faith, conscience, and creed]
(1) Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable.
(2) The undisturbed practice of religion shall be guaranteed.
(3) No person shall be compelled against his conscience to render military service involving the use of arms. Details shall be regulated by a federal law.
In effect, giving guaranteed freedom of religious activities in Germany.
A decision by the German Supreme Court in 1995, decreed that the presence of religious symbols (crucifixes) in public institutions to be illegal, excluding in some Roman Catholic elementary schools. Still, it further states that the symbols must be removed if a parent does not agree with them. In the 1950s, a German Jew complained successfully that his freedom of religion was violated by the obligation to speak in a German courtroom decorated by a cross.
Limitations and reasons:
The tax for recognized religious organisations is collected with the regular state tax. Churches in Germany receive the tax which is collected by the state from all registered members. Those who are not members are not required to pay it. Members of a religious community under public law may formally declare to state authorities that they wish to leave the community. With such declaration, the obligation to pay church taxes ends. The concerned religious organisations usually refuse to administer rites of passage, such as marriages and burials of members left. To rejoin a religious organisation, one would simply get one's declaration of re-entry officially recorded. The church tax is historically rooted in the pre-Christian Germanic custom where the chief of the tribe was directly responsible for the maintenance of priests and religious cults.
Fee for 'leaving the church'
In July 2008, it had to be decided whether a fee for leaving the church was in line with the constitution. The court decided it was an infringement of religious liberty. As the state of affairs in August 2008 noted, declaring that one is no longer a member of a churches costs between 10 and 30 € in most federal states. It is free in Berlin, Brandenburg and other areas, though in some places like Baden-Württemberg, it may cost up to 60 €.
Children who do not want to take the obligatory class in religious education may take an alternative class which is called "ethics", in which various issues of philosophy, society, and morals are discussed.
While church and state in Germany are legally separated, Germany has been under the dominating social and cultural influence of one single church, be it Protestant or Roman Catholic. This influence determined the arts, education, customs, lifestyle, and even architecture. Though in eastern Germany urban areas, this cultural influence of religion has been substantially reduced, it is not so in rural areas.
In 2004, the court denied a Muslim teacher the right to wear a headscarf in class, on the basis that she had to be neutral. In the late 1970s, another teacher, was not allowed wear the distinct clothing of his religion.
Cults, sects, and new religious movements
Since the 1990s, German courts have denied the request of the Jehovah's Witnesses several times to become a corporate body under public law for various reasons, one of them being that the Jehovah's Witnesses would discourage their members from taking part in state elections. In March 2005, Jehovah's Witnesses were granted the status of a body of public law for Berlin, on the grounds that the alleged lack of fidelity towards the state had not been convincingly proven.
German courts have come to different decisions on employees and members of Scientology regarding their religious status. The German government considers Scientology "an organization pursuing commercial interests". Scientology is not classified as a non-profit organization in Germany. Germany has been criticized over its treatment of Scientologists in United States human rights and religious freedom reports. In defense, the Germany has said that the German government believed Scientology's "pseudo-scientific courses can seriously jeopardize individuals' mental and physical health, and that it exploits its members."
There have been cases of groups in Germany which practice Germanic neopaganism facing legal sanctions because of their display of symbols such as runes, which prosecutors have deemed illegal under laws against neo-Nazi propaganda.
1. STONE v. GRAHAM. In 1980, the Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky law that required the posting of the Ten Commandments in the public schools classrooms. The Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments was a form of state sponsored religious indoctrination prohibited by the First Amendment. Posting the Decalogue, the Justices worried, might "induce the school children to read. Meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Ten Commandments."
2. Last May, 1986, three Pennsylvania seventh grade students were suspended for passing out a religious newspaper in the hallways of their public school. The paper, Issues and Answers, covers a variety of topics of interests to teenagers -sports figures, sex and dating, social issues, and problems with parents- with a direct Christian content of the newspaper unacceptable, and prohibited its distribution. Believing the order restricted their free speech rights, the students continue to distribute the paper -an action for which they were suspended. The students have sued the school district, and the case is still pending in the courts.
3. Twelve year old Rebecca Higgins was harassed by school authorities in May, 1985, when, after giving a short report on the Bible, she distributed free copies of the New Testament to her classmates. After her report, a math teacher, acting under the school principal, confiscated the New Testaments. At the end of the school day, the New Testaments were returned. But when Rebecca tried to return the New Testaments to her classmates the next morning, she was ordered to the principal's office where she was "interrogated" about her religious beliefs and told that she had broken the law. Rebecca and her parents sued the school district, and the case eventually settled out of court. (1)
4. In 984, Mary May, a teacher's aide at Harper Elementary School District in Evansville, Indiana, filed suit against the school district after she and several co-workers were threatened with dismissal unless they stop holding their weekly early-morning Bible study on school property. Last April, the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against May stating, "the school has never been used for meeting unrelated to the business of the school." This, despite of the fact that the school is open for meetings of the PTA, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, a fine arts group, and others. Thus, at least in Induana, teachers are not permitted to pray or study the Bible together on school property.
Freedom of religion was first applied as a principle of government in the founding of the colony of Maryland, founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore, in 1634.
Fifteen years later (1649) the Maryland Toleration Act, drafted by Lord Baltimore, provided: "[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed. In 1657, the Catholic Lord Baltimore regained control after making a deal with the colony's Protestants, and in 1658 the Act was again passed by the colonial assembly. This time, it would last more than thirty years, until 1692, when after Maryland's Protestant Revolution of 1689, freedom of religion was again rescinded. In addition in 1704, an Act was passed "to prevent the growth of Popery in this Province", preventing Catholics from holding political office. Full religious toleration would not be restored in Maryland until the American Revolution, when Maryland's Charles Carroll of Carrollton signed the American Declaration of Independence.
The United States formally considers religious freedom in its foreign relations. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which investigates the records of over 200 other nations with respect to religious freedom, and makes recommendations to submit nations with egregious records to ongoing scrutiny and possible economic sanctions. Many human rights organizations have urged the United States to be still more vigorous in imposing sanctions on countries that do not permit or tolerate religious freedom.