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Americans Strongly Favor Equal Applications of the Law Over Religious Freedom Accommodations

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 Benjamin Knoll
RELIGION AND POLITICS © jswinborne via Getty Images RELIGION AND POLITICS

A recent nationwide poll conducted by political scientists from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky shows that by a wide margin, Americans strongly favor equal treatment under the law over respecting individual religious beliefs when the two come into conflict. Similar to other recent surveys, the Fall 2015 "Colonel's Canvass Poll" finds that 73.8 percent of survey respondents report that "treating equally under the law" is more important than "respecting religious beliefs" when the two are in conflict. Only 14.9 percent believe that "respecting religious beliefs" should take priority.
This sentiment is widespread among partisans of all stripes. 92.8 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners, 86 percent of Independents, and 68.8 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners agree that "treating equally under the law" is more important. There is also widespread consensus among Evangelical Protestants (70 percent), Mainline Protestants (89.2 percent), and Catholics (84.4 percent). Further, two-thirds (68.5 percent) of frequent church attenders agree that "treating equally under the law" is more important, as well as 93.8 percent of infrequent church attenders.
Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis made headlines last month for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 65.6 percent of survey respondents report that they either strongly or somewhat agree that county clerks should "be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples [even] if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs." 26.6 percent strongly or somewhat disagree.
Respondents were further asked their opinions on a number of other hypothetical "religious freedom" scenarios:

  • 66.2 percent of Americans agree that an employer should be required to hire an otherwise qualified gay employee even if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • 65.5 percent of Americans agree that a pharmacist should be required to fill customer prescriptions for contraceptives even if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • 64.4 percent of Americans agree that a restaurant server should be required to serve alcohol to customers even if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • 60.3 percent of Americans agree that a landlord should be required to offer apartment leases to same-sex couples even if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • 44.7 percent of Americans agree that wedding photographers and bakers should be required to offer services to same-sex marriage ceremonies even if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • 28.9 percent of Americans agree that pastors and priests should be required to offer marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples even if doing so would conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.
Conducted by Assistant Professor of Politics Benjamin Knoll and Associate Professor of Politics Chris Paskewich, the "Fall 2015 Colonel's Canvass Poll" was part of a community-based learning component of their fall 2015 courses at Centre College. In all, 77 students participated in fielding the survey and administering the questions to respondents. The randomized, nationally representative telephone survey was conducted September 24 - October 1, 2015. It sampled 487 respondents, 62 percent of whom were reached via landline and 38 percent via cellphone. The margin of sampling error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent. Full topline results for the survey questions associated with this release can be found here: http://web.centre.edu/benjamin.knoll/2015FCSStopline.pdf.

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