Glossary Terms


    A letter representing an array of qualitative characteristics of a state’s law, still only those that are objectively discernible. (These might indicate how a state manages to safeguard in an area, say, by not acting at all in a specific space or with a religious exemption in an area where the state is active.)


    (Raw) data: the as-written laws of states. Data, generally: representation in words, codes, scores, or other numerical representation of the legal protections of religious liberty in the states.


    A collection of safeguards that are topically related. In 2022, RLS analyzes six groups. The multisafeguard groups are those related to health-care providers and marriage and weddings. The four remaining groups are comprised of single safeguards. The purpose of the group designation is ease of communication (in some tables and figures) but has no role in index construction.

    index score

    The aggregate score of all safeguards. The index score for each state is the sum of its safeguard scores, divided by 11 and then multiplied by 100 to provide a percentage.


    The smallest unit of data that can be understood as indicating whether a dimension of protection exists or not in a state. Items refer to who is protected (via, for instance, exclusion or exemption), from what consequences they are protected, or for (or in order to do) what. In 2022, RLS evaluates twenty-nine items.


    The number (one through fifty) indicating the extent of safeguarding by a state relative to its peers, where first place is the most safeguarded and fiftieth the least.


    The central measures of liberty protection for this project. Each safeguard focuses on an area of life that is a space for potential religious exercise. Variation across states in some safeguards can be fully characterized by one item while others vary in multiple dimensions and are, thus, comprised of multiple items (e.g., because of distinct whos or from whats). In 2022, RLS considers eleven safeguards.

    safeguard score

    The aggregated score of all items in a safeguard. If there are multiple items within a safeguard, it is a simple average. If it is a single-item safeguard, the (item) score and safeguard score are the same.


    A number reflecting whether the law represents the presence of safeguard (1) or its absence (0).