Religious Discrimination May Rise With Noted Uptick in Gov’t Restrictions, Social Hostilities

Employment attorneys in Los Angeles have noted an uptick in employment complaints stemming from religious discrimination. Turns out, this coincides with a notable uptick in government restrictions and social hostilities against religious persons between 2007 and 2017.religious discrimination

Policies, laws and actions by state authorities that restrict religious practices and beliefs, according to the Pew Research Center, are up around the world as well as in the U.S. Hostilities – which include violence and harassment – is also on the incline.

The most recent data we have suggests that over the last decade, more than 50 governments – including those in Russia, China and Indonesia – have been imposing either a level of restriction on religious activity considered either “high” or “very high.” Nations where individuals report feeling a “high level of social hostility” due to their religion rose from 39 up to 56 in the course of those 10 years.

Pew tracked the not only restrictions of religious freedoms (limits on certain activities or outright harassment) but also government favoritism of some religious groups or belief systems to the exclusion of others. The latter could mean providing funding, property or other benefits. The average global score for both is up by 20 percent.

Global patterns are inconsistent regarding social hostilities. For instance, there has been an uptick of harassment related to religious norms, such as women violating religious dress codes (or abiding religious dress code, like wearing the hijab). Some of this involves individual harassment or discrimination. In other cases, groups like Boko Haram and the Nordic Resistance Movement are fueling some of this surge.

To reach these conclusions, researchers at Pew examine religious freedom reports like those from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms and the U.S. State Department. Although these reports generally make comparisons from one year to the next, this decade-long analysis offers a broader picture, examining social hostilities and government restrictions and providing ratings that are country specific and continent specific. There are also hyper-local analyses considered, such as some cities that have banned religious headscarves at public pools.

In most countries with the highest scores of religious favoritism have named an official government religion – mostly Islam. However, in places like the United Kingdom, Iceland and Greece, different forms of Christianity are named as the official religion.

Although regions like the Middle East haven’t changed much with regard to favoritism and hostility predicated on religion compared to regions in Europe (France in particular), but that’s because they started at such a high level. But a growing number of European nations have imposed restrictions on religious dress (such as the hijab or burqa) in certain public places and in photographs for official government documents. In Germany, male circumcision is now banned except for medical reasons. In the U.K., marriage ceremonies held at the Church of Scientology were deemed invalid because a court ruled it was not a meeting place for religious worship.

In Canada, a court denied territorial protection for a proposed ski resort, as requested by an indigenous nation who argued the land was central to their faith. In both the Americas and Europe, religious harassment has increased significantly – particularly from 2014 to 2015, with the U.S. seeing the largest spike in 2015 and 2016. In Europe, the number of countries where there were reported to have been either individuals or groups that used threats or violence to attempt to convert others rose from 4 to 15 between 2007 and 2017.

The U.S. also scored relatively high on an increase in social hostilities, thanks to a surge in protests like the deadly “Unite the Right” in Virginia that involved white supremacists who chanted anti-Jewish sentiments.

While it’s not that these things are necessarily playing out in office places across the country, our employment attorneys know this increase is not something to be overlooked, and is not likely a mere coincidence in comparison to the uptick in religious discrimination workplace claims.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.

Additional Resources:

A Closer Look at How Religious Restrictions Have Risen Around the World, July 15, 2019, Pew Research Center

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