by Andrea Moury
Hostility to Christian beliefs on marriage and sexuality have more than doubled in the past three years, according to a new June 2017 report. The report, which was produced by the Family Research Council (FRC) and titled “Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States,” also found a 76 percent increase in religious freedom violations.
Comparing this report with their first edition released in July 2014, FRC discovered skyrocketing levels of hostility and intolerance towards religious beliefs:
When the first edition of this report was released in July 2014, religious freedom violations across the United States were already significantly high. Since that date, the number of incidents has only increased. The first edition—spanning over a decade—contained 90 incidents. Yet 69 new incidents have been added in the short time since the last report. That is a 76 percent increase in just under three years. Moreover, Sections III and IV, documenting hostility to religious beliefs on natural marriage and human sexuality, contained 42 incidents in the report’s first edition. In the time since then, 48 new incidents have been added to these sections. Thus, the number of these religious freedom violations more than doubled in a 114 percent surge.
Those numbers are actually conservative estimates since incidents involving more than one person affected were only counted once. FRC notes: “Thus, the actual figures are likely much higher.”
The 66-page report studied four different categories of hostility and intolerance:
I. Attacks on Religious Expression in the Public Square
II. Attacks on Religious Expression in Schools and Universities
III. Censure of Religious Viewpoints Regarding Sexuality
IV. Suppression of Religious Viewpoints on Sexuality Using Nondiscrimination Laws
It discovered that, “while every section of the report shows an increase in the suppression of religious freedom,” sections III and IV included even greater increases of the level of hostility experienced by religious people on account of their beliefs regarding the topic of sexuality.
The introduction to the report gives some examples of the types of incidents documented:
Since the first edition of this report came out about three years ago, the problems have only grown. Militant atheists and progressives continue to target longexisting crosses and historical markers of America’s religious heritage in public places. Teachers tell young school-children they can’t read their Bible in school. Private citizens and the government alike are attacking religious expression by other citizens. Whether it’s a media backlash to merely expressing a faith position on sexuality, or the use of nondiscrimination laws to punish religious business owners for their decisions, threats to free speech and free exercise are heating up both in the courts and the public square.
Cases added just this year involve Tennessee elementary school children who had their after-school Bible club shut down by the school district, a Michigan family who were excluded from a farmers’ market since they do not host same-sex marriages on their property, and a Catholic hospital which was sued for not providing gender reassignment surgery.
FRC President Tony Perkins released a statement alongside the report:
The recent spike in government driven religious hostility is sadly not surprising, especially considering the Obama administration’s antagonism toward biblical Christianity. The report underscores the legitimacy of the actions taken by the Trump administration to end the policies and practices in federal agencies that fan the flames of this religious intolerance. The increase in reported cases not only reflects the growing hostility, but also the growing courage of Christians, especially young Christians, to defend both their faith and their freedoms.
This report is designed to quantify the threat to our First Freedom and to challenge Americans to use their God-given freedoms to protect these freedoms we enjoy as Americans. We will continue to advocate and work for our government to return to the proper and healthy understanding of religious freedom, the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs.
Nowadays, discrimination and intolerance seem to be getting a great deal of attention in the media — but only discrimination and intolerance towards certain groups, like gays, lesbians, and Muslims. Comparably little attention is being paid to hostility towards Christians, despite the fact that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.
However, these violations of basic religious freedom represent a serious threat to every American, whatever his beliefs. Fortunately, groups like FRC are working hard to combat these threats, but concerned citizens must also speak out and stand up against all forms of discrimination and hostility.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0