The Religious Freedom Project (RFP) is engaging major new questions not often broached in contemporary debates
over the meaning and value of religious freedom. What is the relationship between religious freedom, other
fundamental freedoms, and societal flourishing? What economic and political benefits accrue to societies that
afford full and free expression to the religious impulses that are deeply embedded in the human experience?
Can religious freedom contribute to the consolidation and longevity of democracy, to economic growth and
reductions in poverty, or to the equality of women?
To address these questions with empirical data and rigorous scholarship the RFP has commissioned some of America’s leading scholars. They comprise two working groups (listed below) and together form an interdisciplinary research team under Director Thomas Farr and Associate Director Timothy Shah.
Additionally, the RFP is taking an in-depth look at Christian communities that are facing persecution. Key questions include: How are such communities responding to persecution? How effective are their strategies? What lessons can other religious minorities learn from these groups about how best to resist, or even to survive, religious persecution?
The RFP's Economic Working Group focuses on the impact of religious freedom on economic freedom, political economy, and development. Our scholars are economists, development specialists, political scientists, and students of Islam with relevant expertise on economic issues. They have a broad regional focus, analyzing issues in the West, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The group analyzes the importance of religious freedom for entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation, property rights, the dignity and equality of women in the workforce, family structure and stability, and social mobility in India.
The RFP's Political Working Group focuses on the impact of religious freedom on political freedom and democracy. Our scholars are experts in areas of political science, sociology, law, diplomacy, and philosophy. Their analysis is both qualitative and quantitative, and covers political developments around the globe. The group examines the importance of religious freedom for reforming semi-authoritarian regimes; the relationship between the freedom to proselytize and democratization; religious freedom in the politics of Muslim-majority countries;and the role of religious freedom in geo-political competitiveness.
In collaboration with the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame, the RFP is engaging in a three-year global research project called Under Caesar’s Sword. The project investigates how Christian communities respond when their religious freedom is severely violated. A team of 14 of the world’s leading scholars on regional religions will study some 100 beleaguered Christian communities in over 30 countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and India.