FRC Publication on Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-Conversion Laws Reveals Religious Freedom Progress in Sudan and Elsewhere, but Problems Remain

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 19, 2020
CONTACT: J.P. Duffy or Joshua Arnold, (866) FRC-NEWS or (866)-372-6397

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Family Research Council on Thursday released the updated publication, "Criminalizing Conscience: The Status of Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-conversion Laws Around the World." Since the last edition of the report, released in 2019, three countries have repealed laws that threaten religious freedom for their people. Along with other positive changes that helped to remove it from the U.S. State Department's list of "Countries of Particular Concern," Sudan repealed its apostasy law, which prohibited leaving the Muslim faith and could carry the death penalty. Two European nations, Ireland and Greece, repealed their blasphemy laws. Meanwhile, there are efforts to broaden anti-conversion laws in India and anti-conversion laws continued to be actively enforced in Nepal. Of the countries listed in the report, 17 countries have apostasy laws, 70 countries have blasphemy laws, and 6 have anti-conversion laws.

All of this comes at a time when religious freedom overall is worsening around the world. A Pew study released last week found that government restrictions on religion around the world have reached the highest point in the past 11 years.

Travis Weber, Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs and Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, issued the following statement:

"As Christians, we know that true religious faith is never compelled or coerced; it is freely given. This is why apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws -- all of which coerce or compel faith in some manner -- are such an affront to religious freedom worldwide. We hope that this publication can shed light on the problem so that, together, we may work toward a freer world for those of all faiths."

Arielle Del Turco, Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, issued the following statement:

"Apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws restrict an individual's basic freedom to choose their own faith and express their beliefs. When utilized, these laws pose a serious threat to religious believers simply looking to live out their faith.

"It is very encouraging to see Sudan and several other countries repeal their apostasy and blasphemy laws in the past several years. As we note in our updated report: 'Sudan's example proves change is possible, and it should encourage us to advocate for the repeal of laws oppressive to religious liberty everywhere they remain.'

"This should encourage religious freedom advocates to continue pressing this issue and build on the momentum," Del Turco observed.

The Trump administration has made religious freedom a priority around the world. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently remarked on FRC's Washington Watch with Tony Perkins, he hopes that others will build on their efforts to protect this fundamental human right: "I hope that whoever is leading this country forward will continue to keep this work that we've done here at the State Department on religious freedom at the top of their agenda."

The release of FRC's updated report coincides with Thursday's "Advancing Religious Freedom in Sudan" virtual event hosted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which FRC President Tony Perkins serves as Vice Chair.

To download the full publication, visit: