Religious restrictions have increased in the United States

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Religious restrictions have increased in the United States and 15 other countries, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religious & Public Life.

The study, based on 2009-10 data, judged countries based on a Government Restrictions Index and a Social Hostilities Index, the Pew Center reported.

One a scale of zero to 10, with 10 indicating the most restrictive, the United States ranked 3.4 on the social scale and 2.7 on the government scale, compared to 2 and 1.6 on the respective scales in the previous study released in 2011. While the new study judges a one-year period, the 2011 study graded a two-year period.

The scores put the United States in the moderate ranking in both the social and government categories, according to Pew.

Brian Grim, a researcher in the study, said the results for the United States were unexpected.

"These were surprising findings because the U.S. (and Switzerland) are not countries where we've typically seen these levels of hostilities," Grim said, according to CNN.

The study's timeframe doesn't take into account recent events that would have given the United States a poorer score, including a "number of reports involving people who were prevented from wearing religious attire, like beards, in the judicial settings and prison," Grim said.

In judging the countries, Pew Forum researchers reportedly combed through 19 respected public sources of information, including reports by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Council of the European Union, the United Kingdom's Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Freedom House and Amnesty International.

Other countries that have seen an increase in religious hostilities and restrictions, among the 197 Pew studied, are Angola, Brunei, Chad, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Republic of Macedonia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

None of the countries in the study earned a zero, the best score possible.

—BP