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Abstract

Social scientists studying freedom of religion and belief have focused upon two types of restrictions on religious freedom, formal restrictions that take the form of laws and other official legal limitations on freedom of religion and belief, and informal restrictions that take the form of social hostilities towards religion or towards particular religious groups, usually minorities. This Article seeks to build upon this work in three ways: first, by noting the striking correlations between countries with very high or high legal restrictions and social hostilities regarding religion and the frequent presence of a dominant religious group in those countries; second, by suggesting that dominant national religious majority groups may create an even more formidable obstacle to religious freedom than laws and regulations and other forms of social hostility towards religious groups; and third, by noting a dramatic exception to this pattern, countries where Catholics are the dominant religious group. Countries with Catholic majorities are, for the most part, places where there are not high legal or social restrictions on freedom of religion. This Article concludes by considering the role that Dignitatis Humanae may have played in this remarkable pattern of low legal restrictions and social hostilities in Catholic-majority countries.

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