A majority of Americans strongly support religious freedom even if the views expressed are deemed “discriminatory,” according to a new study from the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.
The new data highlighted in Becket’s inaugural Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment shows that a majority of Americans support freedom to practice one’s religion at work or in life even if it creates an imposition or inconvenience for others.
“The central finding from this first year’s Index is that broad public support for religious freedom has survived the culture wars. After years of religious freedom being pushed to the center of polarizing debates, rather than reveal a partisan 50-50 split, at 67[%], the Index scored in the upper third on the scale of favorability toward robust religious freedom protections,” Becket said in an announcement to The Christian Post.
“Across dimensions, we saw public support well above 70 percent on many issues, indicating that the concept of religious freedom maintains its place as a core component of American cultural values. The study also found evidence for a preference for a hands-off government approach and support for a culture of accommodation of religious beliefs and practices,” the nonprofit said.
The Religious Freedom Index includes data gathered in an annual online poll in fall 2019 of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 American adults. The poll includes 21 questions that contribute to the Index and will be asked with the same phrasing every year. It also includes additional questions that are not calculated in any of the Index dimensions and will change from year-to-year based on current events, the study said. The polling is expected to take place annually between mid-September and mid-October.
The study highlighted that even though many other studies have found evidence of growing tribalism and exclusivity in American culture, when it comes to accepting and accommodating minority beliefs and practices such as Sikhs, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, a strong 80% of respondents in the study expressed support in general. Some 74% support accommodation in the workplace.
“Even when a religious practice may impose on or inconveniences others, 63 percent of respondents expressed support for the freedom to practice those beliefs in daily life, including the workplace. The responses to this questionnaire are also notable for how Millennials and younger generations generally express greater support than older generations, the reverse of the results for most dimensions,” the study said.
In a statement to CP, Mark Rienzi, president and senior counsel at Becket, said he hopes the index will become a valuable tool for understanding how Americans feel about religious freedom in years to come.
"Over the last 25 years, Becket has made a name for itself as the premier religious liberty law firm in the nation, representing people of all faiths and political views. We are eager to contribute a new tool for understanding Americans' sentiments towards our first freedom," he said. “Over time, we hope the Religious Freedom Index will become an essential resource to anyone who studies attitudes about religion and religious freedom in America.”