A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) revealed that at 53 percent, the majority of Americans oppose restricting the rights of the LGBTQ community. An even more promising finding for America’s future: About two-thirds of young adults believe wedding-based businesses should not be allowed to refuse services to same-sex couples on religious grounds.
The commitment of American youth to equality was demonstrated this month when Biolans’ Equal Ground, a Christian LGBTQ student group at Biola University, penned a letter of opposition to the Christian university’s president after multiple Biola professors signed the “Nashville Statement.”
Signed in August by Religious Right leaders, the Nashville Statement proclaimed signers’ views on human sexuality and gender identity, including the view that they “DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
But many, including Christians, are pushing back against this divisive view and any attempts to translate it into public policy. As AU’s Faith Organizer Bill Mefford noted: “All people have the right to practice their religious beliefs – or to practice no religious belief at all – so long as their practice does not cause harm or discriminate against others.”
Biola students also are standing up and asking their university to maintain a supportive environment for all students: “Your silence on this is sending a confusing and damaging message to both LGBTQ students who are affirming as well as to those who have chosen celibacy,” they wrote in the letter published in the Huffington Post.
Most Americans oppose using religion as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
Youth activism like this is extremely important in shaping the debate about true religious freedom. These current and former students recognized that religious freedom is about fairness, not discriminating against others based on belief, so they did something about it and made their voices be heard.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans agree with them. According to the PRRI poll, 56 percent of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to use their religion as an excuse to deny service to LGBTQ people, while 72 percent of Americans support non-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people.
Ensuring that religion is not being used to harm people or take away their rights is why Americans United started the Protect Thy Neighbor campaign. We’re assisted by Faith Leaders United, a network of religious leaders; if you are a member of the clergy, you can get involved.
Stopping religion from being used as an excuse to discriminate is also why we’re involved in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which could have huge implications for religious freedom. This case involves a Colorado bakery that is using religion as an excuse to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to bake them wedding cakes. Americans United will file a legal brief telling the Supreme Court that the First Amendment does not excuse businesses from their obligation to treat all customers equally – even when the desire to discriminate is motivated by religion.
You can take action, too. Join AU in pledging that religious freedom is about fairness. Pledge with us that:
- We don’t treat people differently because their beliefs are different from ours.
- We don’t tell people how to pray.
- We don’t ban people based on their religion.
- We don’t use religion as a license to discriminate.