The United States has for the first time been named among the top 12 nations where Christians are targeted for their faith by a persecution watchdog group in its "Hall of Shame" report for 2016.
"We felt it was very important this year that we highlight three countries where religious discrimination and persecution are deemed unusual but have reached a certain threshold of concern. These are Mexico, Russia, and sadly, the United States," explained in a press release Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern.
"While conditions in the US are in no way comparable to other countries on the list, a certain segment of the culture and the courts seem to be intent on driving faith out of the public square. There have been too many court cases with bad decisions to miss the clear trend line."
The ICC report divides the 12 countries into three categories. Nigeria, Iraq and Syria were listed among "the worst of the worst" countries for Christians, due largely to the rise of Islamic extremism and the ongoing terror attacks throughout these nations.
North Korea was also included in this category, although government crackdowns, executions and the mass imprisonment of between 40,000-70,000 Christians were the prime drivers of persecution.
India, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt were listed as "core" countries of persecution, where Christians are targeted often by blasphemy laws, while the rise of Christian populations is suppressed, as it is seen as a threat to the government or religious majorities.
Finally, the U.S., Mexico, and Russia were identified as "new and noteworthy" nations where Christians are facing increased persecution.
The entry for the U.S. points out that supporters of Islamic radicals have managed to carry out a number of lone-wolf attacks in the past year, but Christians are also being targeted by culture and by the media.
"Christians in the U.S. are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close- minded," the report argues, highlighting in part the battle between traditional marriage and LGBT-supporting groups.
ICC said that Christians have also lost anti-discrimination legal battles and been fined for adhering to their principles, largely when it comes to traditional marriage.
"Decades of accumulated poor judicial decisions and precedents have twisted the First Amendment so that the courts, in defiance of the Founders, are pushing religion out of the public square, and into the small space of private expression," the report stated.
"In essence, the courts are deciding that you only have full religious freedom and expression in the church and your home. In the public domain, your religious views and thoughts must be restrained and controlled."
Echoing King's sentiment, the entry makes clear that life for Christians in America cannot be compared to the levels of violence believers overseas are facing, but the group argued that the decline of religious liberty in the U.S. is very worrying.
North Korea has often been featured at the very top of lists that focus on Christian persecution, with other groups, including Open Doors USA, naming it the worst country for followers of Christ in its annual list for almost a decade straight.
A number of the countries in ICC's report were also featured in Aid to the Church in Need's November list of nations where Christians face the most persecution.
The seven nations where persecution was branded so extreme by ACN that "it could scarcely get any worse" include: Afghanistan, Iraq (northern), Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Syria.
"A virulent and extremist form of Islam emerged as the number one threat to religious freedom and was revealed as the primary cause of persecution in many of the worst cases," the November report explained.