The Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment is produced by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Ryan Colby and Dr. Dee Allsop are the Principal Investigators of this project. As Principal Investigators, Ryan and Dee have responsibility for the protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects, the conduct of the study and the ethical performance of the project.  Inquiries about the study should be directed to

Ryan Colby, Associate Communications Director
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
1919 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20006 

Dr. Dee Allsop, CEO
Heart+Mind Strategies
12355 Sunrise Valley Dr., Suite 340
Reston, VA 20191

We welcome comments and advice on the organization and use of the Religious Freedom Index data. We request that you keep us informed of publications that use or refer to the Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment report or analysis.   Please use the following citation when referring to the study:

“Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment.” The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Washington, D.C. (November 2019)

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths. You can read more about the mission of Becket Fund for Religious Liberty .  There are no conflicts of interest between project staff, the research process, and the publication of findings. 


When it comes to religious liberty, it has been nearly impossible to assess whether, or how, American opinion has changed. If America is becoming less religious, as some polls indicate, does that necessarily mean it is also becoming less supportive of religious liberty protections? Are we, in fact, divided on questions of religious freedom?

The Religious Freedom Index is designed to give a “30,000-foot view” of changes in American attitudes on religious liberty. Rather than focus on the most hot-button issues dominating the news-cycle, questions asked in the Index are designed to cover a wide spectrum of religious liberty protections under the First Amendment, including:  1) Religious Pluralism; 2) Religion and Policy; 3) Religious Sharing; 4) Religion in Society; 5) Church and State; and 6) Religion in Action. 


Grants for this project were provided to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty by the Templeton Religion Trust, the Our Sunday Visitor Foundation, and the Maclellan Foundation.

The survey design, implementation and analysis is performed by Heart+Mind Strategies, LLC, and the principal contact there is Dr. Dee Allsop, CEO, 12355 Sunrise Valley Dr., Suite 340, Reston, VA 20191.

Heart+Mind Strategies adheres to the standards outlined in the Insights Association’s Code of Standards and Ethics (formerly CASRO or the Marketing Research Association Code of Ethics):

  1. Research organizations shall ensure that participation in research is voluntary and based on informed consent.
  2. Research organizations shall respect the rights and well-being of individuals who participate in research, and shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure that individuals are not harmed or disadvantaged as a result of their participation in research.
  3. Research organizations shall make all reasonable efforts to protect the privacy of research participants and to keep personal information confidential and secure.
  4. Research organizations shall be honest, transparent, and straightforward in their professional and business relationships.
  5. Research organizations shall conduct research based on a consistent commitment to integrity, objectivity, and quality.
  6. Research organizations shall exercise independent and professional judgment in the design, conduct, documenting, and reporting of their research projects and activities.
  7. Research organizations shall ensure that research is conducted by persons with appropriate training, qualifications, and experience.
  8. Research organizations shall comply with all applicable national and international laws and regulations.

This research project does not involve the use of any medical or educational records.  Research does not include any deprivation of physiological requirements such as nutrition or sleep, the manipulation of psychological or social variables such as sensory deprivation, social isolation, stresses, mood induction, the use of deceptive techniques, nor the presentation of materials that subjects might consider offensive, threatening, or degrading, or changes in diet or exercise.

No experiments are conducted on survey participants, though different subsamples are sometimes presented with different questions or different question wording.  The online survey is in English.

The scientific merit of this research project does not go through a peer review process by sponsors, or committees, or other outside organizations.


Because of the non-intrusive nature of this type of research and our target research audience, following the industry best practices, we utilize a modified approach to the process of obtaining informed consent.

While Heart+Mind Strategies does not independently seek informed consent from subjects, participants in the survey have previously consented to participate in an online panel.  All participant identities are completely anonymous and protected.  Because we are using a survey panel, survey staff do not meet with a potential subject, do not find out if the subject is capable of giving consent, and do not discuss the risks, benefits, discomforts or alternatives to participation.  Likewise, research staff do not ask for permission to conduct the survey, do not describe the duration of the survey, and do not explain the purpose of the survey.  Instead, these pieces of information are shared with potential respondents in the introduction at the beginning of the survey.

The survey instrument does not explain that the survey is for research purposes only (not commercial use) nor the procedures for maintaining confidentiality.  Upon completion of the survey, respondents are not told how to follow up on project findings, the Becket Fund is not identified to respondents as the sponsor of the survey, and respondents are not informed that their anonymous responses may be shared. The questionnaire is available upon request.

Participation is voluntary, and refusal to participate in any part of the research involves no penalty or decrease in benefits to which the subject is otherwise entitled, and the subject may discontinue participation at any time without penalty or loss of benefits. While Heart+Mind Strategies does not compensate subjects or provide incentives for taking the survey, subjects are provided incentives for their participation in the online panel by the panel provider.

Since this research involves no greater than “minimal risk” to human subjects taking the survey, we waive the formal process of informed consent. This does not adversely affect the rights and welfare of the subjects, and the research would be impracticable otherwise.


No medical procedures are conducted and the project does not collect sensitive information, as defined by the Division of Human Subjects Protection, Office for Human Research Protection. The following kinds of potentially sensitive information have NOT been collected:

  • Information about sexual attitudes, preferences, or practices
  • Information about personal use of alcohol, drugs, or other addictive products
  • Information about illegal conduct
  • Information that could damage an individual’s financial standing, employability, or reputation within the community
  • Information in a subject’s medical record that could lead to social stigmatization or discrimination
  • Information about an individual’s psychological well-being or mental health
  • Genetic information or tissue samples


As mentioned before, participants in the study are members of a panel who have volunteered to participate in surveys and polls. Dynata is the online panel provider used for this study.  Panel members are eligible for participation in this study if they are more than 18 years old and are residents of the United States of America. To ensure representation matching the U.S. population, the survey screens a sample that is representative by gender, age, ethnicity/race, and region matching U.S. Census figures.


The research process is designed to fully protect the identity of respondents.  Survey participants are told the anonymity and confidentiality of their responses will be protected.  Participants are assigned a respondent project identification number and no data file is produced with names or any contact information. We do not ask respondents’ names and do not know them from independent sources.

For most analyses, only the aggregate data is presented. For some questions, respondents are given the opportunity to discuss their personal attitudes. Even when respondents’ comments are quoted, because of the way data are collected, it is impossible to connect any response to an individual or identify any individual by name.

Only the staff of the Heart+Mind Strategies have access to personally identifying information. Processed data stripped of subject identifying information is made available to researchers who can demonstrate appropriate research needs.