CMDA's The Point

New Religious Freedom Survey Provides Encouragement

December 3, 2020

by Jonathan Imbody

An encouraging new nationwide poll reveals that Americans see religion as a core part of who they are and how they navigate trials, that they feel the faith community should play an even greater role in social justice and that elected officials should protect religious freedom.

Those are the key findings of my valued friends at Becket, the phenomenal public interest legal institute that has represented Little Sisters of the Poor, the Christian Medical Association and individuals of all kinds of religious persuasions from Anglicans to Zoroastrians.

As TIME magazine attests, “Becket lawyers are shaking up Washington for a simple reason: they win.

Becket recently published its annual Religious Freedom Index, which aims to provide “a consistent year-by-year picture of American perspectives on religion, culture, and the law.” The Religious Freedom Index includes 21 questions and data gathered in an annual online poll in 2019 and 2020 of a nationally representative sample of American adults (n=1,000) conducted by my friends at Heart+Mind Strategies, an independent research company. Heart+Mind Strategies also conducted polling for CMDA last year on conscience rights in healthcare; those results can be viewed at Freedom2Care.

Here’s what this year’s index revealed about Americans and religion:

Americans’ faith serves as an anchor in storms

  • “More than 60 percent of respondents said that faith or religion was important to them during the pandemic.”
  • “When it comes to solutions to the country’s issues, the Index shows an increase of 7 percentage points [over last year] among those who think people of faith are definitely part of the solution—the strongest level of agreement.”

Religious identity cannot be quarantined

  • “Sixty percent agree that religion for some people is a fundamental part of ‘who I am’ and should be protected accordingly.”
  • “This year, Baby Boomer respondents increased their support for religious expression in the workplace by at least 5 percentage points, specifically for allowing people to abstain from work that violates their sincere religious beliefs, and for accommodating religion in the workplace even when it causes an inconvenience or imposition for others.”

Americans expect the faith community to defend racial justice and religious freedom

  • “More than four out of five respondents who said faith was important also think that religious organizations should have a role in advocating for racial equality and justice.”
  • “Less than half said that their faith community had done a good job of responding to these issues.”

Religious freedom matters in elections

  • “When it came to voting decisions, a candidate’s stance on religious freedom was an important factor to 78 percent of voters.”
  • “When asked which branch of government does the best job of protecting religious freedom, respondents were more likely to choose the courts than elected officials including the president, Congress or state governments. The branch supposed to be the most representative of all, Congress, was the least likely to be chosen.”

If you are one of many Americans of faith who often feel alienated in the workplace or in the public square because of your beliefs, these poll results may provide a measure of encouragement to know that you are not alone in your desire for religious freedom.

Many members of Congress, however, do not seem to have gotten the message that Americans, and American voters in particular, expect them to uphold the religious freedom protections that first brought people of faith to this country and which our founders resoundingly established as the First Freedom in the Constitution.

So consider adding your voice to your many fellow Americans who want to continue religious freedom protections in this great nation. Make your voice and values heard with your elected lawmakers—through visits, letters, phone calls, texts, social media postings, attending Town Halls and any other way you can do your part to preserve our First Freedom.

For practical opportunities to make your views known, visit our Freedom2Care Legislative Action Center. You can also learn more through these legislative advocacy tips.


About Jonathan Imbody

Jonathan previously served as CMDA's Federal Policy Analyst and as CMDA's liaison with the federal government in Washington, D.C. A veteran writer of more than 30 years, Jonathan authored Faith Steps, which encourages and equips Christians to engage in public policy issues. He has published more than 100 commentaries in The Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times and many other national publications. Jonathan's writing focuses on public policy issues including freedom of faith, conscience and speech; human trafficking; abortion; assisted suicide; stem cell research; the role of faith in health; international health; healthcare policy; sexual risk avoidance and HIV/AIDS. Jonathan received his bachelor's degree in journalism and speech communications from the Pennsylvania State University, a master's degree from Penn State in counseling and education and a certificate in biblical and theological studies from the Alliance Theological Seminary in New York. Jonathan's wife Amy is an author and leads the Redemptive Education movement. They have four children and four grandchildren.

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