As of mid-2009, 59 countries (30%) had a law, rule or policy at some level of government forbidding blasphemy (remarks or writings considered to be contemptuous of God), apostasy (abandoning one’s faith) or defamation* (disparagement or criticism) of particular religions or religion in general. Penalties for violating these laws, ranging from fines to imprisonment to death, were enforced in 44 of the 59 countries.
Globally, countries that have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion were more likely to have high government restrictions or social hostilities than countries that do not have such laws. A solid majority (59%) of countries that enforce such laws had high or very high restrictions on religion (government or social) as of mid-2009. Among countries that do not have such laws, by contrast, 58% had low restrictions or hostilities.
* Only includes disparagement or criticism of religion, but not religious hate speech directed at individuals or groups.