Religious Majorities and Restrictions on Religion

27 Pages Posted: 6 May 2016

See all articles by Brett G. Scharffs

Brett G. Scharffs

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: May 5, 2016


It is hard to believe it is a coincidence that when we look at the patterns of restriction of religious freedom that exist around the world, including legal restrictions and social hostilities, in places with high or very high restrictions, there is almost always a dominant religious group that is a majority or supermajority. But there are no countries with high or very high legal restrictions and very few countries with high social hostilities that have a Catholic majority or supermajority. This provides a powerful invitation for those of us who live in countries with high restrictions to reflect upon the role that the dominant religious groups may have in perpetuating those restrictions, and the potential role that those dominant religious group may have in overcoming those patterns of restriction and hostility. Among the most important resources for promoting religious freedom will be religious reasons and doctrines found within religious traditions. Freedom of thought, conscience, and belief is most likely to be promoted when dominant religious groups find within their own religious traditions the resources and arguments in defense of freedom, conscience, and human dignity. Many religious traditions, including Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu, can look to the experience of the Catholic Church for insight and inspiration.

Keywords: religious freedom, restriction, dominant religious group, Catholic, religious tradition, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, human dignity

Suggested Citation

Scharffs, Brett G., Religious Majorities and Restrictions on Religion (May 5, 2016). Notre Dame Law Review, Forthcoming, BYU Law Research Paper No. 16-19, Available at SSRN:

Brett G. Scharffs (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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