The Freedom of Thought Report is a unique worldwide survey of discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists and the non-religious published by Humanists International. The Report examines every country in the world for its record on upholding the rights and equality for non-religious people, taking into account issues of legal discrimination and outright persecution and violence.
The report documents 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.
Purpose of the Freedom of Thought report
Humanists International has undertaken to publish this annual report in order to contribute toward several purposes.
Leveraging public criticism against countries on human rights grounds. In the days after the first report was published, the election of Mauritania and the Maldives to the vice-presidency of the UN Human Rights Council was criticised, their inclusion in the Freedom of Thought report cited as evidence of their human rights failures. Mainstream media in countries which were criticised in the report, for example Indonesia’s Jakarta Globe, not only covered the launch but were prompted to look in particular at the country’s freedom of religion or belief violations.
Influencing the international expert debate and opinion. In 2017 the Freedom of Thought Report was cited by the new UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in his inaugural report. Our report was the only civil society publication to be cited in this way: a measure of its uniqueness and importance. The Report is increasingly cited in discussion of non-religious rights under ‘freedom of religion or belief’.
Highlighting individual’s stories. The report includes verified cases of violations again individuals. This serves to convey how bad laws can affect people, as well as corroborating those individual’s cases in a human rights context. On this site we provide resources and a walk-through of the United Nations complaints mechanism for people whose rights may have been violated.
Providing a tool for activists and civil society. Moving the report online has made the material more accessible than ever before.
Opening up discussion of persecution against the non-religious more generally. Around the publication of the report representatives of Humanists International discussed the issues in articles and live appearances and we worked to ensure that mainstream media reported on the publication (e.g. Reuters, Washington Post). The news was also taken up by citizen journalists (e.g. Examiner.com), popular general interest sites (e.g. Slate.com) and many widely read special interest blogs (e.g. Friendly Atheist).