Americans see religious liberty sliding while intolerance (and whining) rise

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A growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. Those are among the findings of a new study of views about religious liberty from LifeWay Research. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

A growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. Those are among the findings of a new study of views about religious liberty from LifeWay Research. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

A growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. Those are among the findings of a new study of views about religious liberty from LifeWay Research. Religion News Service photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

A growing number of Americans believe that religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. Those are among the findings of a new study of views about religious liberty from LifeWay Research. Religion News Service photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

(RNS) Most U.S. adults say religious liberty is declining in America and Christians face more intolerance than ever.

But nearly 4 in 10 also say Christians “complain too much about how they are treated,” according to a new LifeWay Research survey.

The Nashville-based researchers surveyed 1,000 Americans in September 2013 and again in September 2015. The 2015 survey was conducted a few weeks after Kentucky clerk Kim Davis served five days in jail and made international headlines for refusing to sign marriage licenses for gay couples.

The survey, released Wednesday (March 30), found:

  • 63 percent of U.S. adults overall say Christians face increasing intolerance, up from 50 percent in 2013.
  • 60 percent say religious liberty is declining, up from 54 percent.
  • 43 percent say American Christians complain too much about how they are treated, up from 34 percent.

RELATED STORY: Virginia governor vetoes religious protection bill


“The significant increase is worth attention,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, because it is about the rights of faith-based institutions such as schools, colleges and charities to hire according to their faith, “not about a faux ‘War on Christmas.’”

However, he said, while Christian organizations are fighting for their liberties, “some Christians are whining about Starbucks’ red cups (that did not say “Merry Christmas” on the side).  There are real issues here, but Christians need to pick their battles like discerning adults not complaining children,” said Stetzer.

The survey didn’t ask about the rights of business owners, based on their religious beliefs, to refuse gay couples’ request to rent a venue or purchase cakes or flowers for a wedding. The issues of employment and public accommodations for LGBT people are being fought in several state legislatures.

And the Supreme Court is wrestling with a case in which faith-based groups refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to allow their insurer to cover free contraception for employees.


RELATED STORYSupreme Court seeks compromise in ‘contraceptive mandate’ cases


LifeWay found that 64 percent of Christians say religious liberty is on the decline, including:

  • 71 percent of self-identified evangelicals.
  • 70 percent of people who say they attend worship at least once a week.
  • 56 percent of Catholics.
  • 55 percent of other Protestants.

In addition, 65 percent of people of other faiths, including Jews, Muslims and other minority religions, agree. Stetzer noted that even 46 percent of “nones” — people who claim no religious identity — also saw religious liberty declining.

A growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. Those are among the findings of a new study of views about religious liberty from LifeWay Research. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

A growing number of Americans believe that religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. Those are among the findings of a new study of views about religious liberty from LifeWay Research. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

Seven in 10 Christians — including 82 percent of evangelicals and 76 percent of people who say they attend church at least once a week — say they face increasing intolerance. However, only 43 percent of people of other faiths and 48 percent of religiously unaffiliated agree.

Those who say Christian complaints about treatment are “excessive” include:

  • 38 percent of Christians.
  • 39 percent of Americans of other faiths.
  • 59 percent of nones.
  • 53 percent of Americans — secular or religious — who rarely or never attend worship.

(Cathy Lynn Grossman is senior national reporter for RNS)

  • G Key

    “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-boeskool/when-youre-accustomed-to-privilege_b_9460662.html

  • Ted

    It is beyond laughable that Evangelicals – who have been firing, evicting, beating, banishing, or killing LGBT people upon discovery, for centuries – are now suddenly whining that their hateful bigotries are not being “tolerated.”

  • Pingback: Mississippi bill would let businesses rebuff LGBT people – Religion News Service()

  • Rachael Ennis

    The commentary that American Christians’ excessive complaining is necessarily about a faux war on Christmas or Starbuck’s coffee cups is assuming a lot.

    I don’t know even one American Christian who has remotely cared. It almost seems like it’s a false narrative.

    I believe that by asking participants about “American Christians” it contrasts them with Christians in the greater world sphere. American Christians are aware of how very fortunate we are. We are almost painfully aware that any complaints we raise pale in comparison to the injustice endured by Christian groups in many other countries.

    This juxtaposition is going to make any of us inclined to say American Christians complain too much.

  • Rachael Ennis

    There have also been Christian groups that have helped gay people and served them (No, I am not talking solely about “rehabilitating” them.)

    If I were to bet money on it, I’d wager you wouldn’t blame Muslims for terrorism like you blame evangelicals for lynchings. Are all Muslims terrorists? Are all evangelicals hateful bigots?

    Try again.

  • Rachael Ennis

    G Key,
    Most Christians have been accustomed to oppression. That is why we were saved.

  • yoh

    If you are an American Christian you aren’t accustomed to being oppressed. You are accustomed to being the oppressor.

  • Barry the Baptist
  • Richard Rush

    Bingo! Succinctly stated, yoh.

  • Jon

    “Oh, no! We are being oppressed because we are no longer being allowed to push our Christianity on everyone else!! Oh the horror!”

    http://s369.photobucket.com/user/unhealthytruthseeker/media/persecution.jpg.html

  • Everett

    Ah, troll bait for trolls to bate.

  • Debbo

    G Key, in the first comment, nailed it. In the US that also applies to white men in this culture.

    I agree that the whole “Starbucks red cups” was vastly overblown, but that’s one of social media’s specialties.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    This is an impeachable source. Their self description sounds like they are a push-poll firm that creates “polls” meant to sway public opinion, not gauge it:

    “LifeWay Research has helped Christian ministries impact lives by conducting custom research projects that create unique solutions to your needs. We have tested new product ideas, measured satisfaction, described church practices, measure the health of churches, and quantified perceptions for ministries, authors, more than 20 denominations, and businesses that serve churches. Let LifeWay Research improve the impact of your ministry by improving communications, focusing leadership, mobilizing believers, understanding trends, discovering opportunities, or reaching new people.”

    http://lifewayresearch.com/about/

  • CarrotCakeMan

    If you will read the questions they asked:

    http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/American-Views-on-Intolerance-and-Religious-Liberty-Sept-2015.pdf

    You will see this was indeed a push-poll.

    What I find very telling is they do not name who commissioned this push-poll. Reporter Grossman, that would be a good thing to find out and add to your article. Just who paid for this is very, very germane to the issue.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    And, don’t forget, a few American Christians bought so deeply into the false oppression they claim gives them a “right” to oppress others that they cobbled together what looks like a push-poll in order to try to fool everyone else into believing they are “oppressed.” Please note we do not know who commissioned this poll–but that the questions asked seemed to be designed to elicit that response.

  • John

    One would naturally expect as opposition to traditional Christianity rises (and so Christians comment that they feel their liberty to be restricted) would find a corollary in those who oppose Christianity (4 of 10) to believe Christians complain too much.

    The only morality that may be pushed on anyone in the United States is LGBT morality that is now even trumping the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

  • The religious attack and deny real people with their nonsense. Any “abuse” they feel, is a reaction to their own bigotry and intolerance. The “abuse” of a christian is nothing more than requiring him to follow the law his own god tells him to obey in Paul’s Romans.

  • Suffering is the christian’s ticket to Valhalla, so of course they hurt. It’s a form of self flagellation.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Hogwash, “John.” “Freedom Of Religion” does not mean some imagined “freedom” to force minority, anti-gay “beliefs” onto other churches. it’s always important to remember it isn’t just a matter of those few denominations who tell that LIE that they’d be forced to perform same gender marriages. The major Christian, Jewish and other denominations that are marrying same gender couples now were denied their right to practice their religion freely in several US States until the US Supreme Court ruling in June 2015.

    A good illustration that debunks your claim is the United Church of Christ, which filed suit against North Carolina because that state’s anti-gay Hate Vote denying legal marriage for same gender American couples also provided criminal penalties for a minister who even provided a commitment ceremony for a same gender couple. The UCC won that suit–and their right to marry same gender American couples.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    I would still like to know who commissioned this poll. Has anyone seen any other reports in the media about it? Thank you.

  • yoh

    Lifeway Research is an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Its a propaganda wing of no value for objective studies. Despite having this pointed out on many occasions. As we know the SBC is committed to the fiction that discriminatory laws represent protection of their religious freedom and has been a major supporter in attacking the rights of others. Especially gays, atheists and minority religions.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LifeWay_Christian_Resources

    The author continues to post articles about their polls as if they are a source which has some form of credibility.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Thank you for your scholarship, research and reply, yoh. I see the caveats on the Wiki article, as well as a citation there for an article reporter Grossman write that appeared in USA Today. I wrote Grossman an email last week asking her who commissioned this push-poll; I received no response.