Polarized Americans Still Support Religious Freedom

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Survey sets benchmarks to measure US commitment to First Amendment rights.

Last year, American support for religious freedom survived COVID-19.

The right to free speech held firm amid racial tensions.

And vigorous backing of the First Amendment endured a contentious presidential campaign.

So concludes the 2020 Becket Religious Freedom Index, which will monitor the resilience of the United States’ “first freedom” through the yearly challenges to come.

“Americans understand religion as a fundamental part of an individual’s identity,” said Caleb Lyman, director of research and analytics at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“It is no surprise that they support strong religious freedom protections in work and public life.”

Designing 16 questions across six categories, the annual index measures perspectives on the First Amendment. Now in its second year, in October it polled a nationwide sample of 1,000 Americans, scoring their support from 0 (complete opposition) to 100 (robust support).

The composite score is 66, a statistically insignificant decline from 67 in 2019.

Becket’s report recognizes that the religious impulse is natural to human beings, and therefore religious expression is natural to human culture.

Through their law firm, they defend religious rights. Through their index, they discover if Americans agree.

The 16 questions are repeated each year, to measure consistency across detailed application:

  • Support for “Religious Pluralism” measured 77. The most significant decline across the six categories, down from 80, it gauges popular support for holding beliefs about God, adhering to a religion, and living out the basic tenets of religion in daily life.
  • Support for “Religious Sharing” measured 69. Down from 71, it explores the extent to which people should be free to share their religious beliefs with others.

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