This page lists changes in the 2018 edition of the report which affect the application of a given country’s boundary conditions, and therefore modify the country’s ratings table, which usually will affect the overall ranking for that country. This page is not an exhaustive list of changes to the narrative reports for each country; it only notes the narrative changes (usually the inclusion of the new material) which has prompted the application of new boundary conditions and/or the removal of existing boundary conditions.

Burkina Faso

In light of new information now included in the narrative report about subsidies for religious groups, we have applied the level-3 condition “State-funding of religious institutions or salaries, or discriminatory tax exemptions” under the “Constitution and government” strand. With a little more information and clarity in the in “Education and children’s rights” and “Family, community and society” strands, we also applied the all-clear conditions to these two strands. The narrative report cautions that there is an absence of information on irreligiosity in the country, or clarity on the nature of the religious instruction that is permitted only in private, non-state-funded schools.

Burundi

With the inclusion of more information in particular about the president and his agenda to “moralize society”, we have applied the condition “Government authorities push a socially conservative, religiously or ideologically inspired agenda, without regard to the rights of those with progressive views”. Given the impact that some of these controls have in particular on couples with different religious backgrounds, we have also applied the condition “Prohibitive interreligious social control (including interreligious marriage bans)”. We have therefore removed the all-clear condition from the “Family, community, society” strand.

It remains unclear if students are really able to take advantage of “Moral education”, the alternative to religious education classes which is supposed to be available. However, with the inclusion of information suggesting that the secondary schools sector contains many religious schools under contract from the government, we have applied the level 3 condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools”. We have therefore removed the null condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” from the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

Cape Verde

With new material on the 2014 concordat and the various privileges it accords uniquely ot the Catholic Church, we have applied the level-3 conditions “Preferential treatment is given to a religion or religion in general” and “State-funding of religious institutions or salaries, or discriminatory tax exemptions” in the “Constitution and government strand”.

We have also applied the level-3 conditions “Discriminatory prominence is given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders” in the “Family, community and society” strand.

We have therefore removed the superceded conditions in these strands.

We have applied the all-clear condition in the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

Central African Republic

With the inclusion of information on the school system for the first time, we have applied the condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional”. The null boundary condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” has therefore been removed from the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

With the inclusion of more information on the constitution and legislative practices, under the “Constitution and government” strand we have also applied the all-clear condition “The state is secular, with separation of religious and political authorities, not discriminating against any religion or belief”. The null boundary condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” has therefore been removed from the “Constitution and government” strand.

We have removed the condition “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect” because there is no evidence that laws against religious intolerance or incitement to specifically religious hatred are being used to suppress legitimate free expression about religion as such.

 

China

In light of mandatory classes on atheism and Communism in schools, in line with the ruling party’s Communist ideology, and explicitly without comparative religious knowledge, we have applied the condition “Religious or ideological instruction is mandatory in at least some public schools (without secular or humanist alternatives)” (because obviously, the element of atheism within Communism does not equate to humanism and is not equivalent to a considered approach to comparative religion). We have also applied the level-3 condition “Some concerns about children’s right to specifically religious freedom” on account of the various suppressions of specifically religious beliefs, practices and sects. We have therefore removed the null condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” from the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

With the addition of information about government messages designed to promote gender inequality and push women in particular toward marriage, we have applied the condition Government authorities push a socially conservative, religiously inspired agenda, without regard to the rights of those with progressive views”.

We have applied the level-5 condition “Quasi-divine veneration of a ruling elite is enforced, or a single-party regime holds uncontested power, subject to severe punishment” in the “Constitution and government” strand. We have therefore removed the superceded null condition “No condition holds in this strand”.

Colombia

Having greatly extended the information in the “Family, Community and Society” strand, we have applied the level 3 boundary conditions “There is significant social marginalisation of the non-religious or stigma associated with expressing atheism, humanism or secularism” and “Discriminatory prominence is given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders”. We have therefore removed the null condition in this strand.

Comoros

With the inclusion of more information on education, we have applied the level 4 boundary condition “Religious or ideological instruction is mandatory in all or most state-funded schools with no secular or humanist alternative”, and therefore removed the superceded level 2 boundary condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional”. The page has also been updated with more detail on the quasi-blasphemy laws, as well as a law against practicing “witchcraft”.

Congo, Republic of (Congo-Brazzaville)

With more information now included about the depth and severity of political oppression, corruption, and the long-term threat to freedom of the press, we have applied the level-3 condition “Expression of core humanist principles on democracy, freedom or human rights is somewhat restricted” and therefore removed the superceded level-2 condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious”, effectively increasing our concern for freedom of expression in the country.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

 

With the addition of more information on general concerns about civil rights and justice under the “Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values” strand, we have applied the level-3 condition “Expression of core humanist principles on democracy, freedom or human rights is somewhat restricted”. We have therefore removed the superceded level-2 condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious”.

Cyprus

We have applied the level 4 boundary condition “‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence”. This reflects evidence that was already in the narrative report on the law against “wounding the religious feelings of any person”, which is punishable for up to one year. We have therefore removed the superceded level 3 boundary condition “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect”.

Eritrea

The narrative report has been updated to reflect the 2015 Criminal Code, which contains provisions about “disparaging” and “profaning” religious feelings, practices, places and objects, punishable with a prison term. We have therefore applied the level 4 condition “‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence” and removed the superceded level 3 condition “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect”. A previous reference to restrictions on the media re “belittling” religion have been removed because there was no source and it could not be substantiated (possibly it had come from the previous penal code).

Estonia

With the inclusion of more information about civil space and freedom of the press, we have applied the all-clear condition “No fundamental restrictions on freedom of expression or advocacy of humanist values” in the “Freedom of expression” strand.

There is some detail included in the report on incidents and patterns of discrimination against some ethnic and LGBTI+ minorities, which remain of concern and of note. However, we have not detected any widespread discrimination based on religion or belief in this predominantly non-religious society, and we have therefore applied the condition “No religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, individuals are not persecuted by the state”.

We have therefore removed the null condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” from both of the above thematic strands.

However, we have also applied the level-3 condition “Religious schools have powers to discriminate in admissions or employment” in the “Education” strand.

Fiji

We have applied the level 3 boundary condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools” and the level 2 boundary condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional” in light of new information now included in the narrative report.

We have applied the level 3 boundary condition “There is significant social marginalisation of the non-religious or stigma associated with expressing atheism, humanism or secularism” in line with evidence supplied.

We have applied the level 2 boundary condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious” in line with ongoing concerns mentioned in the narrative report.

We have therefore removed the three null boundary conditions previously present in the Education, Society, and Freedom of Expression strands.

 

Georgia

This country has new or removed boundary conditions across three thematic strands.

Due to increased evidence that in some schools and regions there is systematic contravention of the rules against proselytization in schools, we have applied the level-3 condition “Religious instruction is mandatory in at least some public schools (without secular or humanist alternatives)” and removed the superceded level-2 condition “State-funded schools offer religious instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional”.

On the basis of an academic analysis about social attitudes toward the non-religious, we have applied the condition “There is significant social marginalisation of the non-religious or stigma associated with expressing atheism, humanism or secularism”.

While recognising reports that some efforts have been made to improve freedom of the press, we also recognise that the press has been considered only “partly free”, and that some journalists have faced intimidation and violence; we also now record that there are ongoing political attempts to create a new “blasphemy” law; therefore we have applied the level-2 condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious”.

Iraq

A note in the opening summary to the narrative report explains that various boundary conditions were previously applied to this country in order to capture the horrendous situation under areas controlled by ISIS, which is now in retreat. This is a significant change in circumstances, constituting a reversion to the longer-term norms for the country.

We have therefore removed the level 5 conditions: “Complete tyranny precludes all freedom of expression and thought, religion or belief”, “Religious authorities have supreme authority over the state”, “State legislation is largely or entirely derived from religious law or by religious authorities”, “Religious or ideological indoctrination is utterly pervasive in schools”, “Religious or ideological instruction in a significant number of schools is of a coercive fundamentalist or extremist variety”, “Government figures or state agencies openly marginalize, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious”,  “There is a pattern of impunity or collusion in violence by non-state actors against the nonreligious”, “Expression of core Humanist principles on democracy, freedom and human rights is brutally repressed”, “‘Apostasy’ or conversion from a specific religion is outlawed and punishable by death”, and “‘Blasphemy’ or criticism of religion is outlawed and punishable by death”.

Two further conditions which may have previously been applied also due to the ISIS insurgency have nevertheless been retained. This is because the narrative report also contains new information on the partiality of ‘freedom of religion’ under the constitution which excludes the non-religious as well as many religious groups. These retained conditions are: “It is illegal to advocate secularism or church-state separation, or such advocacy is suppressed” and “It is illegal or unrecognised to identify as an atheist or as non-religious”.

We removed the level 5 conditions “It is illegal to register an explicitly Humanist, atheist, secularist or other non-religious NGO or other human rights organization, or such groups are persecuted by authorities” and “The non-religious are barred from holding government office”, as well a the level 4 condition “‘Apostasy’ is outlawed and punishable with a prison sentence”, as these are not supported by the narrative report.

Jordan

We have added the level 3 condition “Religious or ideological instruction is mandatory in at least some public schools (without secular or humanist alternatives)”. We have therefore removed the superceded null condition in the “Education” strand.

Kiribati

Given new information on the nature of religious education in public schools, we have applied the level2 condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional” in the “Education” strand.

Given new information about the widespread influence of conservative religious belief on public policy including human rights issues, we have applied and the level-3 condition “Discriminatory prominence is given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders” in the “Family, community and society” strand.

Given new information about links between most media and political figures, we have applied the level-3 condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious” in the “Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values” strand.

We have therefore removed the superceded null conditions across all three of these strands.

Korea, Republic of (or South Korea)

Based on deeper societal background and recent political changes now included in the narrative report, under the “Family, community, society” strand, we have applied the all-clear boundary condition “No religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, individuals are not persecuted by the state”. We have therefore removed the null condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report”.

Kosovo

We have applied the level-3 conditions “There is state funding of at least some religious schools” and “Religious or ideological instruction is mandatory in at least some public schools (without secular or humanist alternatives)” in the “Education” strand.

We have applied the all-clear condition “No religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, individuals are not persecuted by the state” for the “Family, Community, Society” strand.

We have applied the level-2 condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious” in the “Freedom of expression” strand.

We have therefore removed the corresponding null conditions from these three thematic strands.

Liechtenstein

We have applied the level-3 condition “Discriminatory prominence is given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders” in the “Society, community and family” strand on account newly-added information about the intervention in social affairs, made on overtly religious grounds, by multiple members of the royal family.

With added information in the “Freedom of expression” strand, we have applied the all-clear condition “No fundamental restrictions on freedom of expression or advocacy of humanist values”.

Macedonia

There is much in the narrative report about the difficulties faced by progressive campaigners against nationalist or socially conservative religious opposition, for which reason we already applied the level 3 condition “Expression of core humanist principles on democracy, freedom and human rights is somewhat restricted”. However we have removed the other level 3 condition under the “Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values” strand, namely “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect” which was not supported by the text. We have inserted text on article 319 of the Criminal Code which criminalizes inter alia “mocking” religious symbols, however this appears to be limited to circumstances in which the attack “causes or excites hatred, discord or intolerance”. In the absence of evidence suggesting it has been used to suppress legitimate criticism of religion, we are treating it as an incitement to hatred law and not a criminal blasphemy law.

Marshall Islands

We have applied the level-3 condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools”.

We have applied the level-3 condition “Religious groups control some public or social services”.

We have applied the all-clear condition “No fundamental restrictions on freedom of expression or advocacy of humanist values”.

We have therefore removed the superceded all-clear condition in the “Education” strand and the superceded null conditions in the “Family, community and society” and “Freedom of expression” strands.

Mauritania

In 2018, Mauritania removed the option to “repent” for crimes of “apostasy”, as well as making “blasphemy” a capital offence (it was previously punishable with a prison term), and for both charges made the death sentence compulsory. With this change in the law recorded in the narrative report, we have applied the level 5 condition “‘Blasphemy’ or criticism of religion is outlawed and punishable by death”. We have therefore removed the superceded level 4 condition “‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence”. (The condition “‘Apostasy’ or conversion from a specific religion is outlawed and punishable by death” remains in place.)

Micronesia

With the addition of information about grant-funding for religious schools, which undertake religious instruction of students, we have applied the level-3 condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools” and the level-2 condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional”. We have therefore removed the null condition in the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

Having conducted enquiries, we have applied the all-clear condition “No religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, individuals are not persecuted by the state” and therefore removed the superceded null condition in the “Family, community and society” strand.

Mozambique

With the addition of information on a 2012 concordat with the Catholic Church we have applied the level 3 boundary condition “Preferential treatment is given to a religion or religion in general”. Recognising that religious instruction does not appear to be taking place in public schools, we have applied the all-clear boundary condition “No formal discrimination in education”. We have also added more information about a few social problems, but not items which are specific to the non-religious; with greater clarity on the social situation and no reported discrimination against the non-religious we have therefore applied the all-clear boundary condition “No religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, individuals are not persecuted by the state”. The above applications cross three thematic strands, therefore we have removed the null boundary conditions in each of those strands.

Nauru

With a small amount of new information throughout the narrative report, which includes nothing incriminating on non-religious rights, we have applied the all-clear conditions across the three thematic strands “Constitution and government”, “Education and children’s rights” and “Family, society and community”. We have therefore removed the superceded null conditions across these three strands.

Nepal

With new information about persistent spending on religious buildings and practices, despite the secular constitution, we have applied the level-3 condition “State-funding of religious institutions or salaries, or discriminatory tax exemptions” in the “Constitution and government” strand.

North Korea

With the addition of information about the school curriculum and mandatory membership of youth societies, we have applied the boundary condition “Religious or ideological indoctrination is utterly pervasive in schools”. We have therefore removed the superceded null boundary condition “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” under the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

Pakistan

Various boundary conditions which had already been superceded by more severe conditions have been revised and removed.

In addition, we have removed the superceded level-4 condition “Expression of core humanist principles on democracy, freedom or human rights is severely restricted” and applied the level-5 conditions “Expression of core Humanist principles on democracy, freedom and human rights is brutally repressed” and “Expression of non-religious views is severely persecuted, or is rendered almost impossible by severe social stigma, or is highly likely to be met with hatred or violence”. This reflects ongoing reports of individuals facing harassment, ostracism or prosecution, as well as ongoing incidents of violence against humanists and others accused of “blasphemy”. We have applied the level-5 condition “Government figures or state agencies openly marginalize, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious” to reflect the participation of judges and sometimes lawmakers in anti-“blasphemy” and anti-secularist rhetoric.

Palau

We have applied the level-3 condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools” and therefore removed the superceded null condition in the “Education and children’s rights strand”.

We have applied the all-clear condition “No religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, individuals are not persecuted by the state” and therefore removed the superceded null condition in the “Family, community and society” strand.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

We have applied the level-2 condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional” in the “Education and children’s rights” strand. We have therefore removed the superceded null condition from this strand.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

With the addition of much more detail on the various ‘blasphemy’ and quasi-‘blasphemy’ provisions in the Criminal Code, we have applied the level 4 condition “‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence”. We have therefore removed the superceded level 3 boundary condition “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect”. This effectively downgrades the country’s rating in the category “Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values”.

São Tomé and Príncipe

We have applied the level-2 condition “Some concerns about political or media freedoms, not specific to the non-religious”, and therefore removed the superceded all-clear condition in the “Freedom of expression” strand.

We have removed the level-2 condition “There is a nominal state church with few privileges or progress is being made toward disestablishment” as it was not supported by the text. Finding no other reports of constitutional or government discrimination against the non-religious or on freedom of religion generally, we have applied the all-clear condition “The state is secular, with separation of religious and political authorities, not discriminating against any religion or belief” in the “Constitution and government” strand.

Senegal

With more information on education in schools, we have applied the level-3 condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools” and the level-2 condition “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional”. We have therefore removed the superceded null condition in the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

With more information about significant funding for religious groups, we have applied the condition “State-funding of religious institutions or salaries, or discriminatory tax exemptions”, and therefore removed the superceded null condition from the “Constitution and government” strand.

Sierra Leone

With the addition of more information about the significant influence of religious leaders on social issues – even to the extent that they were effectively able to overturn abortion legislation passed by parliament – we have applied the level 3 boundary condition “Discriminatory prominence is given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders”. This means we have removed the superceded null condition in the corresponding strand.

Slovenia

With the addition of information on conservative religious influence over social issues, including a direct impact on human rights and “family” legislation, we have applied the conditoin “Discriminatory prominence is given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders”. We have therefore removed the superceded null condition in this “Family, community and society” strand.

Spain

Spain abolished its law specifically criminalizing “blasphemy” in 1988, however the country does have a law which inter alia criminalizes offending “religious feelings”. With the inclusion of new evidence, including some cases dating back several years, it’s now clear that this law is being actively used, and used to prosecute legitimate free expression about religion including frivolous cases of free expression online. We have therefore applied the level-3 condition: “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect”. We have therefore removed Spain’s previous all-clear condition under the theme of “Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values”.

Sri Lanka

With the inclusion of new information on the Sri Lankan law against “hurting religious feelings”, we have applied the level 4 boundary condition “‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence”. We have therefore removed the superceded level 3 boundary condition “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect”. We also removed several further conditions which had already been superceded, or which were not supported by the text.

Tajikistan

With the addition of information about over-zealous controls on religious materials in schools and elsewhere, we have applied the level 3 condition “Some concerns about children’s right to specifically religious freedom” in the “Education and children’s rights” strand.

With more social background including an incident which suggestions widespread antagonism against irreligiosity, we have applied the level-3 condition “There is significant social marginalisation of the non-religious or stigma associated with expressing atheism, humanism or secularism” in the “Family, community, society” strand.

We have therefore removed the null conditions in these two strands.

Venezuela

With the inclusion of more information on the history of ‘religious education’ in Venezuela and its current standing in law, we have added the level-2 conditions “State-funded schools offer religious or ideological instruction with no secular or humanist alternative, but it is optional”, and “State-funded schools provide religious education which may be nominally comprehensive but is substantively biased or borderline confessional”. Recognizing the subsidies that apply apparently only for Catholic schools, established by Concordat with the Vatican, we have added the level-3 condition “There is state funding of at least some religious schools”. These additions mean we have removed the superceded null condition in the “Education” strand.

Zambia

With the inclusion of new information on the Zambian law against “wounding religious feelings”, we have applied the level 4 boundary condition “‘Blasphemy’ is outlawed or criticism of religion is restricted and punishable with a prison sentence”. We have therefore removed the superceded level 3 boundary condition “Criticism of religion is restricted in law or a de facto ‘blasphemy’ law is in effect”.