The Freedom of Thought Report is published by Humanists International, the worldwide umbrella of Humanist, atheist, secular and similar organizations.
The Report examines every country in the world for its record on upholding the rights and equality for non-religious people. We consider issues of legal discrimination and outright persecution and violence.
We believe it is important to document discriminatory national laws and state authorities which violate freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. As well as affecting the overtly nonreligious, such as atheists and Humanists, such systemic discrimination also often affects the religious, in particular minorities and non-conformists, and the unaffiliated (those who hold no particular religion or worldview-level belief).
Systemic, legal discrimination can include such things as established state churches (resulting in religious privilege), religious instruction provided without secular ethical alternative classes in schools, through to severe punishments such as prison for crimes of “insulting” religion, or death merely for expressing your atheism.
The Freedom of Thought report details highlighted cases of individuals who have been targeted, usually for expressing their non-religious views, or for promoting secularism (church-state separation, religious neutrality) or for criticising particular religious institutions or ideas. The report also includes some individual cases where religious people, usually in a minority situation, are persecuted under similar laws in circumstances which closely reflect or feed into abuses against the nonreligious, such as when they are targeted by laws against religious conversion or blasphemy.
Humanists International has undertaken to publish this annual report in order to contribute toward several purposes.
The first edition was published in 2012 and covered 60 countries, and we knew that until the report had truly global scope we were omitting many serious problems faced by the non-religious. So we worked extremely hard to expand the 2013 report and since then it has included every country on the planet, as well as a rating system to assess the status of the country.
The idea for a global report on anti-atheist discrimination was first suggested by the US State Department Office for International Religious Freedom. In the spring of 2012 the American Humanist Association (AHA) met with the Office to raise concerns about discrimination and human rights violations directed against people because of their Humanism, atheism or lack of religion. The Office responded by asking the AHA to submit a detailed international report on such discrimination.
The AHA invited the Center for Inquiry, Humanists International (then known as International Humanist and Ethical Union), Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and Secular Coalition for America to work together on a joint report. These organizations drew on their expertise, and their global networks of groups and contacts, to create a 40 page report, covering nearly 40 nations around the world.
On August 8, 2012 representatives of these five groups visited the US State Department to meet with the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and to present the “2012 Report on Discrimination Against Atheists, Humanists and the Non-Religious”.
Humanists International with the support of existing partners and consulting with Member Organisations in countries around the world, then revised and expanded the report to almost twice the size. Humanists International launched this new edition for an international audience on Human Rights Day (December 10), 2012, as “Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-Religious”, intended as the first in a series of annual reports on the same topic. See the Preface to the 2016 edition for more information on what’s happened since then.
In 2016 we introduced the Online Edition of the report. Every country report now appears on its own page with an interactive ratings table. See the full Country Index.