Countries Mimicking Neighbors: The Spatial Diffusion of Governmental Restrictions on Religion


Conceptualized as efforts to deny religious freedoms, previous research explains the presence of governmental restrictions on religion by isolating national governments, asserting that the primary determinant is a country’s internal structural characteristics. These approaches overlook why the levels of governmental restriction on religion are spatially clustered and increasing in distinct patterns. Utilizing spatial analysis and data from the Religion and State Project, this article demonstrates that governmental restrictions on religion are spatially clustered, not independent from neighboring countries, and that increases in a country’s level of restrictions reflect similar changes in bordering countries. Spatial clustering emerges through the diffusion of policies, where national governments mimic their neighbor’s policies and practices even when accounting for internal structural characteristics. The article concludes that while a country’s internal structure is clearly a predictor of policies, national governments are not isolated from neighbors where the level of restrictions are susceptible to external influence.

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 57(2): 221-237
Dane R. Mataic
Dane R. Mataic
Assistant Professor of Sociology

My research explores the intersection of mobilization, international conflict, and social inequalities.