Americans Believe Religious Liberty Is Declining, More Believe Christians Face Intolerance

Most Americans say religious liberty is declining in the country, and more believe Christians are facing increased intolerance.

While most Americans say religious liberty is on the decline in the country, even more believe Christians are increasingly confronted with intolerance in the U.S. But some say American Christians complain too much about how they are treated.

Over half of Americans (54%) say religious liberty is on the decline in America, including 24% who strongly agree, according to a Lifeway Research survey of 1,005 Americans in September 2021. Nearly 1 in 3 disagree (32%), and 14% aren’t sure.

Although a similar percentage of males (53%) and females (54%) agree religious liberty is on the decline, more females say they are not sure. Males (36%) are more likely than females (29%) to say religious liberty is not on the decline in America.

Religious affiliation, worship service attendance and religious beliefs are also factors in a person’s belief about the state of religious liberty. Americans who are more engaged with their faith are among those most likely to believe religious liberty is on the decline in America. Those who are religiously unaffiliated are least likely to agree that it is declining (40%). And among Christians, those who attend a worship service at least four times a month (64%) are more likely to believe religious liberty is on the decline in America than those who attend less than once a month (53%). Furthermore, those who hold evangelical beliefs are more likely to say religious liberty is declining than those without evangelical beliefs (74% v. 48%).

“Freedoms are not limitless,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “As some groups seek more freedom, it often encroaches on another’s freedom. It’s not surprising those who are more religiously active are the ones noticing reductions in religious freedom compared to those who don’t practice religion.”

Belief in Declining Tolerance for Christians in America

When asked specifically about how Christians are treated, Americans believe religious tolerance for Christians in America is declining. Over half of Americans (59%) say Christians are increasingly confronted with intolerance in America, including 24% who strongly agree. Fewer than 1 in 4 (24%) disagree, and 18% say they are not sure.

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African Americans (68%) and white Americans (59%) are more likely to agree than people of other ethnicities (47%).

Those with more education are more likely to disagree. Americans with a bachelor’s degree (30%) or graduate degree (31%) are more likely to say Christians are not increasingly confronted with intolerance in America today than those who are high school graduates or less (21%) or with some college (20%).

“Intolerance is about cultural pushback,” McConnell said. “In the American marketplace of ideas, not all systems of thought are welcomed. The majority of all religions notice this pushback against Christians today.”

Again, religious affiliation, worship service attendance and religious beliefs are factors in a person’s beliefs regarding tolerance levels for Christians in America. Protestants are the most likely to agree that intolerance is increasing (69%), followed by Catholics (59%), people of other religions (53%) and the religiously unaffiliated (41%). Evangelicals (84%) are more likely to agree than non-evangelicals (52%). And among Christians, those who attend a worship service less than once a month (55%) are least likely to believe Christians are facing increasing levels of intolerance in America.

Too Much Complaining

More than 1 in 3 Americans (36%) say American Christians complain too much about how they are treated, including 14% who strongly agree. Nearly half (49%) disagree, and 15% aren’t sure.

“While people of faith have had real challenges to their religious liberty in recent years in the U.S., it’s easy to become known only for talking about these issues,” McConnell said. “It’s ironic that the very ones people of faith would like to convert are noticing what Christians say about what they’re losing rather than what good they have to offer.”

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There are several demographic indicators of whether someone believes Christians complain too much about how they are treated. Males (40%) are more likely than females (32%) to agree. And those who are oldest or have the least education are most likely to say American Christians do not complain too much. Nearly 2 in 3 (64%) of those over the age of 65 say American Christians do not complain too much. And those who are high school graduates or less (56%) are the most likely to say the same.

When it comes to religious beliefs and practices, the religiously unaffiliated, Christians who attend church some and non-evangelicals are among the most likely to say American Christians complain too much about how they are treated. Those who are religiously unaffiliated (53%) are more likely to agree than Catholics (34%) and Protestants (27%). Among Christians, those who attend a worship service one to three times a month (44%) are most likely to agree Christians complain too much. Those with evangelical beliefs (61%) are more likely to disagree than those without evangelical beliefs (45%).

For more information, view the complete report and visit LifewayResearch.com. Used by permission.