Yesterday, we reported on a RealClear Opinion Research poll demonstrating that a clear majority of Americans hold religious freedom to be a “fundamental human right.” Today is national Religious Freedom Day, which sees the release of a new survey from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty that provides even stronger new evidence showing that “despite generational differences and ideological divides, America’s commitment to religious liberty remains strong.”
Jan. 16, 2024, marks the 238th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson’s bleeding-edge innovation that became the basis for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Today’s anniversary also comes some 30 years after the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, introduced by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer on March 11, 1993. RFRA established in law that the federal government cannot burden religious freedom without applying a strict scrutiny standard – that is, such a law must be the least restrictive means of a furthering a compelling government interest.
Each year, Becket publishes the Religious Freedom Index, based on meticulously collected polling data, to document Americans’ changing perceptions about First Amendment freedoms. They ask 21 of the same questions to a nationally representative sample size of American adults (1,000 people), with 15 additional, topical questions intended to gauge sentiment about current issues of public concern. This year, the overall index score is an all-time high of 69 (a composite score based on public opinion regarding six statistical dimensions of religious freedom).
Among this year’s top-line findings:
Other findings include a showing of robust support for the RFRA standard, with 88 percent of Americans favoring strict scrutiny or an even stronger standard for the protection of religious freedom.
Becket also posed a question regarding Apache Stronghold v. United States, a case about a site, sacred to the Apache for centuries, set to be pulverized by a mining company. According to the study, Americans overwhelmingly support protecting sacred sites, even at the cost of sacrificing economic priorities.
Becket releases another extremely encouraging report showing that support for religious freedom is healthy and growing year-over-year. We thank the Becket Fund for their continued efforts to document America’s ongoing commitment to one of its most foundational principles.