Survey: Religious Liberty and Christian Tolerance on the Decline

Survey: Religious Liberty and Christian Tolerance on the Decline

More than half of Americans believe religious liberty and tolerance for Christians are on the decline in the United States. 

According to a survey by Lifeway Research, 54% believe religious liberty is declining and 59% think Christians are increasingly being confronted with intolerance. 

The online survey of 1,005 Americans was conducted Sept. 3-14, 2001, using a national pre-recruited panel and was based on gender, age, ethnicity, region, education level, religion, worship service attendance and evangelical beliefs. 

Of the 54% who believe religious liberty is on the decline, 24% strongly agree and 29% somewhat agree. Thirty-two percent disagree and 14% aren’t sure. Males and females agree almost evenly, at 53% and 54%, but more men are likely to be unsure. 

The survey revealed that Americans who are more engaged with their faith are among those most likely to believe religious liberty is on the decline. Those who are religiously unaffiliated are least likely to agree. And among Christians, those who attend a worship service at least four times a month are more likely to agree than those who attend less than once a month. Furthermore, those who hold evangelical beliefs are more likely to say religious liberty is declining than non-evangelicals.

“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.”

Tolerance for Christians in America Declining

Of the 59% who say tolerance of Christians is on the decline, 24 percent strongly agree and 35% somewhat agree. Twenty-three percent did not agree that tolerance for Chirstians is declining and 18% were unsure. Black Americans and white Americans are more likely to agree, at 68% and 59%, while only 47% of other ethnicities agree.

The higher a person’s education level, the less likely they are to agree that Christian tolerance is declining in the U.S. Thirty percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 31% of those with a graduate degree disagree. Twenty-one percent of high school graduates disagree.  

“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.”

Protestants, at 69%, are the most likely to agree that intolerance is increasing, followed by Catholics at 59%, and people of other religions at 53%. Only 41% of people who are religiously unaffiliated agree. 

Eighty-four percent of Evangelicals are more likely to agree than non-evangelicals, who came in at 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

The survey also measured how Americans feel about Christians complaining, and more than one in three, or 36 percent, say Christians in the U.S. complain too much about how they are treated. 

“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.”

Above: People listen as they hold their signs during the ‘Stand Up For Religious Freedom’ rally at the Plaza of the Flags in the Santa Ana Civic Center on June 8, 2012.

Photo: Ana P. Gutierrez/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS

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