Nearly 90 percent of all Americans consider religious liberty to be an important issue, and 65 percent of Americans believe that freedom of religion should be protected even against government laws, according to a new Marist poll released this month.
The poll also revealed that appointing a Supreme Court justice who believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution is a high priority for a majority of Americans.
“Religious freedom is our first freedom as Americans,” said Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty President and CEO. “This new poll revealed that many Americans prioritize it accordingly. President Trump should take these poll findings as a mandate to protect and restore religious freedom, through executive orders, legislation and Supreme Court nominations.”
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WINS ACROSS THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM
According to the poll, only 25 percent of Americans said that government laws should be obeyed at the expense of religious freedom. Instead, 65 percent claimed that religious freedom should be protected against government laws.
This view was common to both sides of the political spectrum, with 73 percent of people who voted for President Trump agreeing that religious freedom should be protected against government laws, and 57 percent of people who voted for Hillary Clinton.
Eighty-nine percent of Americans consider protecting religious freedom an important priority, with nearly six in 10 calling it an immediate priority, the poll found.
Eighty percent of Americans say it is important to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
FIRST LIBERTY’S CASES: PROTECTING COMMON SENSE
The findings beg the question: If so many Americans want to see more religious freedom, why is that freedom under such attack today?
The answer is that a small but well-funded force of anti-religious groups, including government entities and bully organizations, are dedicated to attacking free religious expression in ways that defy common sense.
Take, for instance, First Liberty’s case protecting Aaron and Melissa Klein. The bakery-owning couple was forced by their Oregon state government to pay a $135,000 penalty simply because they declined to create a custom cake for one event: a same-sex wedding. They were also issued a gag order that prohibited them from speaking about their Christian beliefs regarding marriage.
If President Trump’s recent inauguration activities were any indication, it seems that many Americans still support the right to refuse to participate in an activity that violates one’s conscience. Business Insider reported that at least nine celebrities declined to perform at the inaugural festivities — a right they have under the Constitution. And yet, the Oregon state government is bent on exacting harsh punishment against the Kleins for attempting to exercise that same right.
Another example that defies common sense is the case of Coach Joe Kennedy. The former high school football coach was fired for kneeling and saying a short silent prayer after football games. His firing sends the false and dangerous message that exercising your faith at work — is illegal.
What about the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial? This memorial in Maryland is under attack simply because of its cross shape — a symbol historically representing a grave marker. This is appropriate, considering that the memorial was built specifically to honor local men who died serving in WWI. If we lose this case, the Bladensburg memorial — and all other veterans memorials containing such imagery — will be in danger.
In light of the recent Marist poll findings, it seems likely that the groups attacking these and other First Liberty clients are really out for their own special interest, and do not represent the will of the American people.
First Liberty wins our cases because the law in this country protects religious freedom. It’s key, however, to take advantage of this time to combine the overwhelming public sentiment reflected in the poll with the recent surge in political opportunity under President Trump’s administration. Religious freedom can be advanced in numerous ways where it had been blocked. First Liberty is committed to doing just that. We’re already moving aggressively to advance religious freedom in our laws and to accept more clients and win more cases to establish precedents that can protect religious freedom for the next generation.
News and Commentary is brought to you by First Liberty’s team of writers and legal experts.
Dear Coach Kennedy,
I would like to say thank you. Your dedication to your faith and your commitment to the positive education of our youth is truly admirable. I am deeply grateful for your military service and for taking a courageous stance in protecting religious liberty rights for teachers and administrators.
If our First Amendment protects a player’s right to kneel in protest, it certainly protects your right to kneel in prayer.
I was shocked to learn that Bremerton High School suspended you after denying your request to continue your wholesome practice of giving thanks after football games.
The Bremerton School District’s actions violate the law and send the wrong message to coaches, young people, our communities, and our nation — a message of hostility to religious freedom and intolerance toward personal religious expression.
Please know that you are not alone in this difficult time — I support you and First Liberty as you continue to fight for religious freedom! Our schools need more coaches like you, our country needs more citizens like you, and our world needs more people like you.✖