Discrimination by Businesses

New Poll Shows Most Americans Don't Believe Religious Freedom Is Under Assault

  Rob Boston

A new poll by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that most Americans don’t buy the white Christian nationalist line that faith is under attack in the United States. Furthermore, most Americans are skeptical of granting broad rights to discriminate based on religious views.

PRRI found that 42% of Americans believe that the right of religious freedom is being threatened, while 58% say it’s not. Not surprisingly, white evangelical Protestants, at 72%, are the group most likely to believe religious freedom is being threatened. No other group hit 50%. Figures are: white Catholics, 44%; white mainline Protestants, 42%; and Protestants of color, 41%. Religiously unaffiliated Americans are the least likely to believe that religious freedom is threatened, with only 24% saying it is.

Here are some other highlights from the poll:

  • Americans don’t support allowing small businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people if owners have religious objections to such persons. Only 22% see refusing service as a legitimate right, while 76% oppose it.   
  • Americans strongly oppose allowing religiously affiliated agencies receiving taxpayer funding to refuse to accept qualified same-sex couples as foster parents. A whopping 77% oppose this.
  • A strong majority, 84%, opposes allowing professionals like doctors, lawyers, teachers and social workers to refuse to provide services to particular groups of people if they believe doing so violates their religious beliefs.
  • Most Americans, 62%, say privately owned corporations should be required to cover contraception in their employees’ health insurance plans, even if it violates a company owner’s religious beliefs. In addition, 57% say that religiously affiliated colleges and universities should be required to provide this coverage for employees, and 48% favor requiring houses of worship to provide such coverage for employees.
  • Only a small percentage of Americans, 13%, favor allowing pharmacists to refuse to provide contraceptives to women who have a prescription.
  • Americans are closely divided over the question of whether people should be able to opt-out of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on the basis of their religious beliefs, with 48% saying they should and 51% opposing the exemptions.

The survey highlights the ongoing disconnect in America about what religious freedom means. Americans United maintains that religious freedom is a shield that protects your right to worship or not as you see fit. White Christian nationalists want to use that principle as a sword that lashes out at others and takes away their rights. They seem to believe that their right to worship is somehow bound up in their ability to treat others like second-class citizens. They also resist the idea that under secular government, people of all faiths and no faiths are equal.  What white Christian nationalists call religious freedom looks like oppression to many others.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court keeps inching closer to standing the principle of religious freedom on its head by embracing a definition favored by Christian nationalists. With your support, Americans United will continue to fight against that.


We’re suing to stop Christian Nationalists from creating religious public charter schools

Okla. is violating the separation of church and state by creating the nation’s 1st religious charter school. If we don’t stop them, religious public schools like this could appear in states around the country. Join the fight:

Join the Fight