Religious Freedom Index results: Americans increase support for religious freedom with highest Index score yet Third annual Index provides insights on religion in pandemic, public education, and nonprofits
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – Becket has just released the third annual Religious Freedom Index, the only annual poll that tracks trends across the full spectrum of opinions on American religious freedom. This year’s Index reached a new high as Americans bounced back from a uniquely divisive year with revitalized support for religious liberty. In addition to the Index’s standardized annual questions, this year Becket also asked about Americans’ opinions on faith-based organizations, free speech, and the pandemic.
Across the board, backing for religious freedom increased in this year’s Index, pushing it to a new high of 68 on a scale of 0 to 100. Driving this new high score was a broad shift toward stronger support of religious freedom. More respondents than ever signalized their strong support for religious freedom across numerous questions.
“As Americans bounce back from a divisive year, we see an increased commitment to a wide range of religious freedom principles,” said Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket and co-editor of the Index. “This across-the-board support shows a renewed confidence that protecting religious exercise and expression benefits American culture and civic life.”
Asked about the role of faith-based organizations, more respondents than ever before said they think that religious organizations in the community should be just as eligible to receive government funding as non-religious organizations, with a six-point increase to 71 percent. Turning to free speech, a majority of respondents, 62 percent, believe that people of faith should be free to voice their religiously based opinion in public, even on controversial topics. That view extended to the schoolroom, where 63 percent of respondents said that parents are the primary educators of their children and should have the final say in what their children are taught, supporting the freedom to opt children out of public school content parents find morally objectionable.
Regarding the pandemic and religious liberty, a majority of respondents said that funerals and religious services should be considered essential activities, protected from government closures throughout the pandemic. Respondents were also more likely to support religious exemptions from vaccine mandates in the workplace than they were to oppose them, with respondents who had religious coworkers indicating even greater support for religious exemptions.
“After a period where we all have experienced restrictions on daily life at some level, Americans seem more averse to placing restrictions on their neighbors, coworkers and friends for their religious beliefs,” said Katie Geary, content manager at Becket and co-editor of the Index. “As Americans work together to bridge partisan divides, this naturally extends to greater support for religious freedom.”
The Religious Freedom Index is designed to give a holistic view of changes in American attitudes on religious freedom by surveying a nationally representative sample of 1,000 American adults each fall. The Index’s focus on core religious liberty principles, contextualized with questions on some of the year’s most pressing societal issues, provides a yearly cross section of public sentiment on the intersection of law, religion, and culture. The responses to these questions statistically group into six dimensions: 1) Religious Pluralism, 2) Religion and Policy, 3) Religious Sharing, 4) Religion in Society, 5) Church and State, and 6) Religion in Action.
Surveying and scale construction for Becket’s Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment are conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies, using an online panel assembled by Dynata. Becket contributes its broad expertise representing people of all faiths in religious liberty cases to ensure that the polling instrument and analysis broadly reflect America’s many diverse religions and the full spectrum of religious liberty issues.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at email@example.com or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.