The Ratings System

Every country in this report is assessed against a range of “boundary conditions“. The boundary conditions are statements which may or may not apply to each country. Each boundary condition is associated with one of four thematic strands (these are the vertical columns in the table below). Also, each boundary condition is placed at a given level of severity (these are the coloured horizontal rows in the table below). The following table lists all the possible boundary conditions.

Constitution and government Education and children’s rights Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values
Grave Violations
Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal
No Rating
Constitution and government
Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals

Each boundary condition can be clicked to find a full list of countries where that boundary condition was found to apply.

How countries are rated

Only the boundary conditions which are found to apply to a given country are shown in that country’s own “ratings table”. Here is an example ratings table which would be found on a country’s individual page.


Example ratings table for one country

In the individual country ratings table, rows at the edges of the table are omitted when no boundary conditions were found to apply in those rows. In the example, there is no green row and no dark red row, because no strand was found to meet boundary conditions at the lowest level or at the highest level of severity.

A “signal light” summary system sits alongside the title of each country on its individual page. The “signal light” shows the worst rating received in each strand. In the example table above, the worst-rated boundary conditions applying in the left-most two strands are both at the middle level of severity: orange. The worst-rated boundary conditions applying in the right-most two strands are both at the second highest level of severity: red. (They don’t always come in pairs like this!)

Here is an example “signal light” summary which corresponds to the example ratings table above.


A “signal light” shows that the worst boundary conditions applied in this example country were at levels 3, 3, 4 and 4.

The “signal light” is designed to give an at-a-glance visual summary of the country’s rating within the scope of this report.

Another look at the full list of boundary conditions

It is common for a condition on the more free end of the spectrum (except for the “Free and equal” conditions) to be superseded by a condition on the more severe end of the spectrum. In this case, the less severe condition may remain implicit, and not listed against the country in the report. For example: if blasphemy is punishable by a maximum sentence of “death”, then the less severe boundary condition stating that blasphemy that is punishable by “imprisonment” may be omitted in an individual country’s ratings table.

The table is designed to break the boundary conditions into separate “strands” of concern, allowing for a clearer visualisation of what information is available or included in the Report. This means that as we gather more information we will be doing a better job at identifying gaps in our own coverage. As stated in earlier edition of this Report, given the way the ratings are designed, some ratings are likely to get worse over time simply because we are satisfied that additional, more severe boundary conditions have been met.

Omission of a boundary condition in the ratings box does not necessarily mean that the condition does not hold in reality; it may be that the information is missing from the Report. We are always interested in new sources of information.

The bottom, grey row does not contribute toward the “severity” rating of a country. Only the null conditions “No condition holds in this strand” or “Insufficient information or detail not included in this report” appear at this level.


It should be noted that this report cannot claim to be exhaustive. While all sovereign nations are recorded in this report, some “overseas territories” are not detailed and are not necessarily without discrimination on freedom of thought. Likewise, the individual cases listed as “Highlighted Cases” in this report are examples, not exhaustive lists.

Lack of transparency in some countries makes comprehensive analysis of those countries more difficult. In some countries, usually among the worst offenders, the secrecy of courts, or state control of media, or lack of reporting, make it impossible to produce a complete account. In some countries, vague laws or broad legal powers delegated to local authorities make it difficult to ascertain exactly how laws are applied (or not applied) on the ground.

We may still be overlooking serious concerns in some countries where we have little on-the-ground contact and the last thing we want to achieve is to make already marginalised non-religious people feel like their problems are being ignored or overlooked because we’ve given the country a better rating than it deserves, or because we have overlooked issues of concern. If you find yourself in this situation, or you have any other information including mitigation or errata for a given country, please take it as a prompt to reach out to us and make contact via

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