What Do Americans Think of Religious Freedom and the Constitution?
Last week, I mentioned an extensive new poll conducted by the Barna polling firm. I noted the hostility liberals have toward religious freedom and Christianity that was revealed repeatedly in the poll.
Barna’s poll involved over 70 questions covering constitutional terms, and phrases, religious terms, and feelings regarding monuments and public displays of religious content.
Every three years I have surveyed AFA of Indiana donors to see how we are doing as a policy organization and advocate. The results have been fairly consistent, but in the last two surveys the top issue of concern switched from abortion to religious freedom. For this reason, Barna’s new research is of particular interest to me.
I have been digging into seven components of the study and over 30 pages of results and conclusions. Here are some of the findings of this unique national survey of US adults.
There is some significant ignorance of the U.S. Constitution that mirrors the media and cultural narrative in some ways. (The younger the person, the less knowledge they have.) For example, a high percentage of Americans (38%), did not know that the term “separation of church and state” does not appear anywhere in our founding document.
On a more positive note, nearly eight out of ten (77%) said the following statement is true: “The U.S. Constitution gives American citizens the freedom to experience and express their faith without government interference of any kind.”
Seventy-five percent agreed with this statement: “The Founding Fathers never intended for anything in the U.S. Constitution to hinder the free practice, expression, or experience of religion.”
Eight out of ten (81%) agreed with: “The sections of the U.S. Constitution regarding religion are meant to promote religious freedom, not to create religious penalties and punishments.”
The survey also tested reactions to twenty religious and historic terms. The responses by demographics and ideological differences was often interesting. Four of the terms had very strong positive responses in which ideological differences had the smallest gap.
Religious Freedom 78%
Free Exercise of Religion 76%
Other terms’ responses also received positive reactions such as:
War Heroes 73%
Jesus Christ 72%
One Nation Under God 72%
In God We Trust 69% (our national motto)
The most ideological polarizing words and phrases were “Christian” which had a 39-point positive response difference between conservatives and liberals, “military” (33-point gap), “faith” (32-point gap), “Jesus Christ” (30-point gap), “Founding Fathers” (28-point gap) and “religion” (26-point gap).
Here are some of those specific wide differences in positive response:
Christian 77% 38%
Religion 67% 41%
In God we trust 83% 49%
Military 83% 50%
Religious Liberty 69% 54%
Founding Fathers 86% 58%
In contrast, the terms “separation of church and state” and “humanist” were embraced by most liberals, but were rejected by a majority of conservatives as well as moderates.
Many cultural observers have noted the lack of faith among Millennials. The words and phrases that particularly bother this young demographic are “atheist” (although they had the most positive rating of any generation for that word), “Christian” (only 48% see this term positively), “constitutional”, “military”, “Founding Fathers”, “humanist”, and “in God we trust.”
The term “secularism” and “atheist” had the most negative response across all demographic generations, with both terms receiving below 30% positive reactions.
Next week, I will reveal what Americans think of monuments and public displays with religious content, as well as religious speech, behavior and patriotic displays in the public square. I will also include survey results to questions about public controversy and views on legal attempts to remove such things.
Indiana Law Goes Before the U.S. Supreme Court
As you may have heard, yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling on an Indiana abortion law that AFA-IN supported in 2016. The justices overturned a 7thCircuit ruling blocking a law allowing for the humane disposal, burial or cremation of an aborted child.
Largely unreported in this story was the background testimony before the Indiana General Assembly about local abortion clinics simply pouring the remains of children down drains or throwing them in the trash.
Senator Liz Brown noted, “This law creates rules for how to appropriately dispose of aborted fetal remains. Establishing standards brings respect to the woman, abortion staff and the aborted child. These standards require the facility to dispose of the baby’s remains properly, unless the woman chooses to bury her baby.”
The law was also passed in response to reports of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, selling aborted baby parts.
The Court recognized that this law in no way hinders a woman’s “right” to abortion, which explains the strong 7-2 ruling.
However, that also explains why the court also let stand a ruling blocking another law (over the strong objection of Justice Clarence Thomas) that AFA-IN also supported. That law prohibited abortion for the reason of a child’s race, sex, skin color or fetal abnormality such as Down Syndrome. One analyst described this as “a lethal discrimination.”
It seems clear that the court has no interest in chipping away at Roe v. Wade right now. In my view, those hoping that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe when ruling on Alabama’s law or several other states are going to be disappointed. I suspect, based upon yesterday’s actions, they will let lower court rulings blocking these states stand, thereby punting on the question.
However, it is still possible that the court could revisit this question of discrimination or the use of abortion as a method of eugenics – giving birth only to a specific type of child based upon certain desired characteristics.
In Their Own Words:
“This law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics . . . Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope.” – Justice Clarence Thomas, Box v. Planned Parenthood, May 28, 2019