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Countries With Religious Restrictions

October 27th, 2023

Texas has passed the "Save Chick-fil-A" bill, as a response to San Antonio barring the chain from its airport due to its history of anti-LGBT animus.
Unlike the United States, some countries around the world impose religious restrictions on their residents’ free exercise of religion.

Believe it or not, there are still many countries with draconian religious restrictions in 2023. Many US residents may be completely unaware of these restrictions. While this might not be an issue if residents choose to stay in the United States, traveling while following one’s faith could prove problematic under certain circumstances and in certain nations. But could you really face legal consequences for adhering to your religious beliefs?

Religious Restrictions in Myanmar

Myanmar has some of the most extreme religious restrictions on the planet. As this nation has been under a military regime since the 60s, there is zero protection of religious freedom on a constitutional level. Although registered religious groups are permitted to practice their faith, they may face serious restrictions and loss of rights for doing so. The vast majority of the country is Buddhist, and this is essentially the state religion. Muslims face particularly serious violence and persecution, and young students are pressured to convert to Buddhism. In order to advance through the ranks of the military or government, practicing the Buddhist faith is basically a prerequisite. The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority group, have faced state-sponsored persecution and accusations of genocide have been leveled against Myanmar officials.

Religious Restrictions in North Korea 

North Korea is one of a handful of nations that enforce Atheism. Generally speaking, the state religion is the worship of the leader as a godlike figure. Religions are seen as a distraction. The largest religion seems to be Shamanism, an old traditional Korean faith. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this faith survives to any extent in North Korea today – at least not in public. 

It is worth pointing out that Atheism is strongly encouraged in states that have an authoritarian or communist background. The other notable example is China, which is reported to have caused numerous religious leaders to “disappear” over the years. 

Arab Countries That Ban Atheism

On the other end of the spectrum, there are many countries that impose religious restrictions by banning Atheism. Many of these are Arab states, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Some reports suggest that it is legal to execute anyone who is skeptical about religion in these states. It is also worth pointing out that these states also have laws against apostasy. Apostasy is the process of converting from one religion to another, and in the context of Arab nations, it usually refers to the process of leaving Islam. Although apostasy may be punishable by death in these states, executions have become more rare in recent years.

Will I Face Persecution if I Travel to These Countries While Having the Wrong Religion?

Generally speaking, travelers from the United States will not face the same level of religious persecution as those who actually live in nations with religious restrictions. This is because local authorities understand that Americans might not fully grasp their cultures and regulations. They may also be wary of damaging their relationships with the United States or scaring away travelers who bring tourist dollars to their countries. However, it is always important to research the local laws and customs before traveling to a new nation. It might be a good idea to keep your religious views hidden if you are visiting a highly repressive regime. 

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