“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” reads the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, according to a new poll, fewer than half of millennials aged 18-29 said they believe these protections should extend to every religion.
The poll, conducted by the Newseum Institute, found that while more than 60 percent of every other age group supported freedom for all religions, only 49 percent of 18-29 year olds did.
“It’s … troubling that even people who support the First Amendment in the abstract often dislike it when it’s applied in real life,” Lata Nott, executive director of the First Amendment Center, said in a report.
The poll seems to follow the trend of millennials turning towards society of forced secularism, and away from a society of practical religious tolerance.
“My assumption is that our education system, from kindergarten to college, has taught a faux tolerance rather than true tolerance,” which is causing this shift away from the belief in freedom of religion, Kim Colby told The National Pulse via email.
Colby, the director of Center for Law & Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society, said educators are paying “lip service” to the idea of tolerance, but only apply it to liberal ideas and not dissenting ones. The CLS is a non-profit that gives legal aid in defense of religious liberty.
“Particularly on college campuses, too many campus administrators and student governments seem to believe that they have no responsibility to protect dissenters, unpopular viewpoints, or ideas with which they disagree,” Colby said.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that about 40 percent of schools have “severely restrictive” speech codes on campus. Some schools, including New York University and DePaul even banned speakers. On countless other college campuses, including Penn State and UC-Berkeley, student protests erupted to try to silence speakers.
Although done in the name of protecting students, those who hold dissenting views get unequal treatment and some religious students have fallen victim to these policies.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit dedicated to religious freedom, gave legal counsel to some of these students.
Brandon Jenkins, a student at the Community College of Baltimore County was rejected admission into the Radiation Therapy Program because he told the interviewer that God was the most important part of his life. The program director, Dr. Dougherty, said “this field is not the place for religion” and that “you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process.”
A student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton was suspended for refusing to stomp on a paper with the word “Jesus” on it. The professor demanded his students write “Jesus” in bold letters, throw it on the ground and stomp on it, but Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, told the professor that it was inappropriate and would suggest that Jesus is worthless.
An evangelical Christian club at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was effectively banned from campus because they refused to permit non-Christian club leaders. The college did not allow them to participate in an open house and hand out fliers, nor could they hang up posters in freshman dorms or participate in the fall recruitment drive.
Colby said Christians must combat the hostility by defending their faith and becoming politically active.
“To the degree that society as a whole becomes unwilling to protect people with whom they disagree, particularly those whose religious beliefs they do not agree with, the greater incentive there will be for religious people to be involved in politics, even if they do not want to be, in order to protect themselves from government retaliation,” she said.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0