Discrimination by Businesses

Americans Say No To Religion-Based Discrimination By Businesses

  Rob Boston

A new poll shows that a solid majority of Americans opposes allowing business owners to deny services to people on the grounds of religious belief.  

The poll by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 57 percent of Americans said they oppose allowing small-business owners to refuse services to LGBTQ people if the owner believes it would violate his or her religious beliefs. Only 36 percent said they favor allowing businesses to discriminate.

The poll found some interesting differences among religious groups. The strongest opposition to this type of discrimination comes from Unitarian Universalists at a whopping 83 percent. Opposition among Jews hit 68 percent, and people who say they are “unaffiliated” came in at 66 percent.

Fifty-four percent of white mainline Protestants oppose religion-based denials of service discrimination, as do 66 percent of black Protestants, 52 percent of Hispanic Protestants and 55 percent of white Catholics.  

Only two faith groups, white evangelicals and Mormons, show majority support for allowing discrimination, at 55 percent and 54 percent respectively.

The political breakdown was about what you’d expect: Conservative Republicans were more likely to support discriminatory service policies, with 65 percent expressing support. Among Democrats, opposition to denials of service was much higher, reaching 81 percent among liberal Democrats.

There are also some noteworthy age differences. The poll showed a generational divide, with younger Americans more likely to oppose religion-based denials than older people.

PRRI Senior Research Associate Maxine Najle said opposition to religion-based refusals has remained steady over several years.

“The support we’ve seen on these questions has been pretty stable,” Najle said. “The general public has been fairly supportive of LGBT issues for a while now. The differences are within the margin of error.”

The survey also found strong support for marriage equality, with 62 percent of Americans saying they back it. PRRI says that’s a nine-point increase since 2015 when the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality. Religious Right groups have continued to assail that ruling and have even speculated that a Supreme Court remade by President Donald Trump might overturn the decision. Culturally, however, it looks like they’ve lost the battle.

It’s good to see polls trending in the right direction, but there’s always more work to do to ensure that religious freedom remains a shield to protect our rights, not a sword that others use to lash out. Americans United fights distorted versions of religious freedom every day, and we’d love for you to join us.     

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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