It’s considered a bedrock U.S. value. It’s why the Pilgrims fled to the American continent. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in the inviolability of its guarantees.
Yet the Democrats are actively moving to fundamentally weaken it.
It’s the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment, something that’s supposed to be one of our fundamental rights. In a survey conducted between June 16 and June 17 by Rasmussen Reports and the Christian nonprofit Summit Ministries, 67 percent of 1,000 likely U.S. voters said freedom of religion is very important to a healthy American society, with 15 percent saying it was somewhat important.
Only 5 percent said freedom of religion was not very important, and 4 percent said it wasn’t at all important, with 9 percent unsure.
Furthermore, only 20 percent said churches and faith-based charities should be forced to hire individuals who opposed their beliefs and principles. We’ll get to those numbers later, but this is the wider context behind this survey: Democrats are moving forward with legislation that would compel religious organizations to do just that.
The Equality Act was supposed to be a first-100-days priority for President Joe Biden’s administration. It hasn’t worked out that way, but the bill still lurks in the background. It would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the list of protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This sounds harmless enough until you look at what the bill would do to religious organizations. As NPR noted in February, the bill expressly supersedes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which protected individuals and organizations from laws that infringed upon their religious beliefs.
On top of that, as the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance pointed out in a 2019 write-up of the bill, it would “dramatically expand the definition of public accommodations in federal law to include not only just about every kind of facility and service provider, but even many individual professionals.”
It would also have an effect on who religious organizations could decide to hire and fire. It would treat hospitals and medical practices as public accommodations, meaning doctors or nurses could be forced to participate in transgender care even if it violates their religious beliefs. Religious congregations that rent out their facilities would be forced to rent them out for events that directly contravene their teachings on marriage and sexuality.
Religious adoption and foster care agencies would likely be coerced into placing children with same-sex couples or lose government funding. There are no protections for religious schools and colleges, either.
Despite the fact the first 100 days have come and gone, the Equality Act remains an agenda item, as evinced by Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress in April.
“I also hope Congress can get to my desk the Equality Act to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans,” Biden said, according to a transcript from USA Today.
“To all the transgender Americans watching at home — especially the young people who are so brave — I want you to know that your president has your back.”
The thing is, America doesn’t necessarily have the president’s back.
When asked whether “churches and faith-based charities [should] be required by law to hire people who oppose their religious beliefs,” 50 percent of likely voters in the new poll said no, compared to only 20 percent who said yes; 30 percent weren’t sure.
Among Republicans, 60 percent said no, along with 54 percent of independents. Only 14 and 16 percent of those groups, respectively, said the groups should be required to hire individuals who oppose their religious beliefs.
The biggest surprise should be among Democrats. Only 28 percent said religious organizations and faith-based charities should be forced to hire those who opposed them, while 37 percent said they shouldn’t be.
As for the importance of the freedom of religion, that was also popular across the board; 86 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of independents said they felt freedom of religion was either very or somewhat important in a healthy American society. That number is again worth noting coming after a year in which religious congregations were oft subject to the harshest COVID-19 restrictions, with some states treating churches, mosques and synagogues more stringently than casinos.
“This research affirms that the American people overwhelmingly support the continued protection of the Constitutional right of freedom of religion, and oppose policies requiring churches and faith-based charities and organizations to compromise their deeply-held religious beliefs,” said Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries, which commissioned the survey.
“Yet, leaders in Washington, DC are aggressively pushing forward on legislative measures such as the mislabeled Equality Act, which specifically strips away religious freedom protections. In an era of hyper-partisanship, freedom of religion retains broad, bi-partisan support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.”
The problem lies in that one hyphenated word: “hyper-partisanship.” This is what the American people may support, but the left flank of the Democratic Party is pulling the White House and the congressional caucuses along.
With their attempted federal takeover of voting rights, the so-called “For the People Act,” top Democrats like House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina argued legislation that could be shoehorned into the category of civil rights should be exempt from the filibuster. That hasn’t worked yet with the For the People Act — but if it does, expect to see the argument the Equality Act deserves the same treatment.
Americans may reject its premises. They may reject the fact people of faith will now be compelled by law to hire people whose beliefs directly contradict theirs, or that doctors will be forced to perform procedures that contravene their consciences. Democrats don’t care, and they trust the media will put enough of a happy face on it that people won’t get angry.
With these kinds of numbers, they shouldn’t be so sure they’ll get away with it this time.
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