Nearly a quarter of countries forcefully stopped religious gatherings during COVID, report

Religious groups defied COVID public health rules in 35% of countries and territories in the study.

Updated: November 30, 2022 - 2:08pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Nearly a quarter of countries around the world used physical force to stop religious gatherings in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

The study published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center also found religious groups in more than a third of those countries defied the lockdowns.

Authorities used physical means, including arrests and prison sentences, to enforce COVID-related mitigation measures in 23% of 198 countries and territories in a study.

In the U.S., police in New Jersey arrested 15 people at a rabbi’s funeral that violated the state’s ban on public gatherings, according to the report. The arrests were made after some mourners reportedly became unruly and argumentative when police tried to disperse the crowd.

Religious groups in 37% of the surveyed countries faced various outside attempts to deter them from meeting during the COVID outbreak in 2020, the study also found.

Measures taken to deter religious groups from meeting included government force, private or governmental actors publicly blaming religious groups for spreading COVID or private actors participating in violence or vandalism against religious groups.

Religious groups, however, defied COVID public health rules in 35% of countries and territories in the study.

Religious groups filed lawsuits or spoke out against the restrictions in 27% of countries including the United States.