Annual report on intolerance against Christians in Europe draws attention to chilling effect

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) released its annual report in the context of the International Day of Tolerance (Nov. 16).

It focuses on three main developments of intolerance against Christians in European countries: Anti-Christian hate crimes, self-censorship and negative stereotypes and treatment of Christians in the media.

OIDAC provides an overview of over 500 Europewide anti-Christian Hate Crimes and discusses disproportionate Covid-19 regulations for churches.

The report analyses other forms of discrimination through legislation and lack of competence from authorities when dealing with cases involving religion and religious freedom.


Christian self-censorship has been identified in five areas of life: education, workplace, public square, private social interactions and media platforms.

Scholars distinguish between non-coercive self-censorship – like refraining from expressing tasteless or morally wrong messages out of respect for others – and self-censorship based on fear of discrimination or sanctions.

The report describes how this phenomenon affects religious freedom through the analogy of “a death by a thousand cuts,” as multiple and repeated small-scale incidents accumulate and result in more severe harm.

Thus, Christians interviewed in the research were attuned to several “minor” incidents affecting other Christians for expressing their religious views, such as losing their jobs, being rejected by friends and facing fines or confrontations in the public sphere.

Chilling effect

These incidents lead to a “chilling effect”, that is, a fear that inhibits a person from speaking up and therefore limits their freedom of speech and other expressions of religion.

Two interrelated factors triggered a “chilling effect” during 2021: 1) legal cases against outspoken Christians and 2) social pressure.

In addition, some scholars have suggested a third factor contributing to self-censorship, in the form of polarising internet algorithms that tailor the content consumed by users to the latter’s interests, only promoting interactions with like-minded users.

These algorithms can reinforce a person’s pre-existing convictions, contributing to the polarisation of opinions and decreasing tolerance towards other perspectives.

People self-censor when they perceive an intolerant atmosphere and the possible difficulties it entails – from job loss or suspension from school to prosecution, social exclusion, defamation or verbal or physical attacks.

There are indications that self-censorship is increasingly affecting both religious people and society in general.

Photo: OIDAC

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