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Religious discrimination

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Title: Religious discrimination  
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Subject: Religious discrimination in the United States, Religious intolerance, Religious discrimination against Neopagans, Freedom of religion, Anti-Protestantism
Collection: Prejudices, Religious Discrimination
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Religious discrimination

Religious discrimination is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe. Specifically, it is when adherents of different religions (or denominations) are treated unequally, either before the law or in institutional settings such as employment or housing.

Religious discrimination is related to religious persecution, the most extreme forms of which would include instances in which people have been executed for beliefs perceived to be heretic. Laws which only carry light punishments are described as mild forms of religious persecution or as religious discrimination.

Even in societies where freedom of religion is a constitutional right, sometimes adherents of religious minorities voice concerns about religious discrimination against them. Insofar as legal policies are concerned, cases that are perceived as religious discrimination might be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law (and not aimed specifically against a religious minority).


  • Religious discrimination in Western countries 1
    • United States 1.1
    • Canada 1.2
    • Germany 1.3
    • Greece 1.4
    • Mexico 1.5
  • In the Middle East 2
    • Iraq 2.1
    • Turkey 2.2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5

Religious discrimination in Western countries

United States

In a 1979 consultation on the issue, the United States Commission on Civil Rights defined religious discrimination in relation to the civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Whereas religious civil liberties, such as the right to hold or not to hold a religious belief, are essential for Freedom of Religion (in the United States secured by the First Amendment), religious discrimination occurs when someone is denied "the equal protection of the laws, equality of status under the law, equal treatment in the administration of justice, and equality of opportunity and access to employment, education, housing, public services and facilities, and public accommodation because of their exercise of their right to religious freedom."[1]

However, cases of religious discrimination might also be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law. Although e.g. in the United States the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", in Reynolds v. United States the U.S. supreme court decided that religious duty was not a suitable defense to a criminal indictment. In this specific case a law against bigamy was not considered to be discriminating against Mormons, who stopped practicing Polygamy in 1890.[2]


In Quebec has used two school systems, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic, but it seems this system will be replaced with two secular school systems: one French and the other English.[3]

Canadian faith based university, Trinity Western University is currently facing a challenge from members of the legal and LGBT community to its freedom to educate students in a private university context while holding certain religious values.[4] TWU faced a similar battle in 2001 (Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers) where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that TWU was capable to teach professional disciplines.[5]


Scientologists in Germany face specific political and economic restrictions. They are barred from membership in some major political parties, and businesses and other employers use so-called "sect filters" to expose a prospective business partner's or employee's association with the organization. German federal and state interior ministers started a process aimed at banning Scientology in late 2007, but abandoned the initiative a year later, finding insufficient legal grounds. Despite this, polls suggest that most Germans favor banning Scientology altogether. The U.S. government has repeatedly raised concerns over discriminatory practices directed at individual Scientologists.[6][7][8]


In Greece since the independence from the Muslim Ottomans rule in the 19th century, the Greek Orthodox Church has been given privileged status and only the Greek Orthodox church, Roman Catholic, some Protestant churches, Judaism and Islam are recognized religions. The Muslim minority alleges that Greece persistently and systematically discriminates against Muslims.[9][10]

Recently, professor Nick Drydakis (Anglia Ruskin University), examined religious affiliation and employment bias in Athens, by implementing an experimental field study. Labor market outcomes (occupation access, entry wage, and wait time for call back) were assessed for three religious minorities (Pentecostal, evangelical, and Jehovah's Witnesses). Results indicate that religious minorities experience employment bias Moreover, religious minorities face greater constraints on occupational access in more prestigious jobs compared to less prestigious jobs. Occupational access and entry wage bias is highest for religious minority women. In all cases, Jehovah's Witnesses face the greatest bias; female employers offered significantly lower entry wages to Jehovah's Witnesses than male employers.[11]


According to a Human Rights Practices report by the U.S. State Department on Mexico note that "some local officials infringe on religious freedom, especially in the south". There is conflict between Catholic/Mayan syncretists and Protestant evangelicals in the Chiapas region.[12][13][14]

In the Middle East


Assyrian Christians have suffered from discrimination since Saddam Hussein's Arabization policies in the 1980s, with the latest instance of discrimination being the ISIS invasion of the Nineveh plains and Mosul, where tens of thousands have been forced to flee, and multiple Christian sites have been destroyed. The number of Christians in Iraq overall since the 2003 invasion has dropped by around 60%, from 800,000 to 300,000, and in 1987, that number was around 1.4 million.[15] The 2014 invasion by ISIS has likely degraded that number further.

Sunni Muslims have also fallen victim to persecution from the majority Shia population of Iraq, which may have led to the ISIS invasions.


Syria. Although Turkey's support for ISIS can't be proven, in one instance they opened their border and allowed Al Nusra terrorists, a radical Islamic group that controls land in Syria, to enter through their border, and then into the majority Armenian Christian town of Kessab(which is right on the Turkish–Syrian border)—Al Nusra raided the whole town, and took those who didn't flee as prisoners with them to the Turkish city of Iskenderun.[16][17]

See also



  1. ^ U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1979: II
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Challenges to TWU law school application.
  5. ^ Legal decision on TWU
  6. ^ Barber (1997-01-30)
  7. ^ Kent (2001), pp. 3, 12–13 |
  8. ^ U.S. Department of State (1999)
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Drydakis Nick (2010) Religious Affiliation and Labour Bias. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 49, 472-488.
  12. ^
  13. ^ The requested URL /articles/other/mexico.shtml was not found on this server.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^


  • Stokes, DaShanne. (In Press) Legalized Segregation and the Denial of Religious Freedom
  • Stokes, DaShanne. (2001). "Sage, Sweetgrass, and the First Amendment." The Chronicle of Higher Education. May 18, 2001, sec. 2: B16.
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1979: Religious discrimination. A neglected issue. A consultation sponsored by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Washington D.C., April 9–10, 1979
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