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The John Templeton Foundation has awarded a $1.7 million grant to the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) to lead a first-of-its-kind international inquiry into the meaning and impact of institutional religious freedom.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right that belongs to communities and individuals alike. It demands that communities, like individuals, be free from coercion so that they can organize their internal affairs on the basis of their religious convictions as well as express and act on them in public life. While institutional religious freedom reinforces individual freedom and contributes to society’s common good, it is often neglected by leaders in government, academia, and media.

This pathbreaking three-year effort – the Freedom of Religious Institutions in Society (FORIS) Project – aims to address three main questions:

  • What is institutional religious freedom?

  • How is institutional religious freedom faring globally?

  • Why is institutional religious freedom worthy of public concern?


FORIS seeks to advance scholarship, inform policymaking, and increase cultural appreciation regarding the nature and contributions of religious institutions in society. In addition, FORIS aims to explore the implications for the common good of properly securing institutional religious freedom.


RFI has convened more than 20 leading scholars from a range of academic disciplines to examine these questions with the highest degree of expertise and rigor using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods.


FORIS endeavors to:

  • Define the meaning and scope of institutional religious freedom.

  • Create and test an unprecedented, cross-national index of institutional religious freedom, along with a codebook that identifies and distinguishes the essential dimensions of institutional religious freedom.

  • Conduct an empirical study to assess the causal relationships, if any, between institutional religious freedom and those factors that promote the common good in any society: stable social order, dynamic economy, free and democratic political order, robust civil society, and clean and transparent governance.


The cross-national index and common good analysis will focus on  17 countries :  China ,  Egypt ,  Germany ,  Greece ,  India ,  Indonesia ,  Iraq ,  Israel ,  Malaysia ,  Mexico ,  Nepal ,  Nigeria ,  Pakistan, Russia ,  Sri Lanka ,  Turkey , and the  United States .

The cross-national index and common good analysis will focus on 17 countries: China, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the United States.

Project Personnel