Our planet is a spiritual one. There are 2.3 billion Christians worldwide which account for 31.2% of the total world population. 1.8 billion people (or 24.1% of the world) are Muslim, 1.1 billion (15.1%) are Hindu, and 500 million (6.9%) are Buddhist[1]. For those of you who are about to pull up your calculator, no need, because I just put mine away and I’m here to tell you that it’s a whopping 77.3% of this planet that ascribes to these four particular religions; and even more who belong to less-mainstream thought systems. It’s easy for people to blink and shrug at these numbers, but I think they illuminate something really fascinating; spirituality transcends culture. All around the world there are examples of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) at play, and the extent to which government and religious organizations intersect is of course varied depending on the country. Countries constantly move through transitionary periods and knowing the relationship between world governments and their spiritual (and decidedly non-spiritual) citizens is an essential aspect of FoRB education.

The United States has long enjoyed lawful protections for freedom of religion or belief, with provisions in place such as the Johnson Amendment which according to Americans United for Church and State “protects the freedom of speech of both houses of worship and other community nonprofits. At the same time, it shields them from the pressure to endorse or oppose specific candidates in elections. No one wants our charities and houses of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics.[2]” This upcoming year the United States will transition its Executive Branch, and President Elect Joe Biden has several plans in place to continue promoting and protecting FoRB. These plans include providing increased security grants to religious communities, establishing a faith-based law enforcement program, and strengthening prosecution of hate crimes[3]. Ensuring that places of worship are safe - both physically and in ideology- is of paramount importance. Maintaining the essential connection between religious organizations and government, over a thousand US-based faith leaders signed a joint statement affirming their commitment to a free and fair election this past year. Their statement states, “We join together as leaders of faith across political, religious, and ideological differences to affirm our commitment to a free, fair, and safe election. The values of our faith traditions inform our dedication to this cause. All of the constitutional freedoms that we enjoy, including our religious freedom, depend on the in