Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
In this week’s article for “Figuring Faith,” Dr. Robert P. Jones kicks off the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” with a “Fortnight of Facts About Religious Liberty.” Check out a sampling of Americans’ views on the hotly debated issue of religious liberty below, and make sure you stay tuned to the blog over the next two weeks, where we’ll be unpacking some of these factoids in more detail. We’ll also be tweeting out one fact a day, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter to get the full scoop!
Tonight, the U.S. Catholic bishops will launch the “Fortnight for Freedom,” a response to what the bishops claim are encroachments on their religious liberty by the Obama administration, the most well-known of which is a mandate which requires all employers (including religiously affiliated organizations) to provide birth control to their employees at no cost through their insurance plans. The two-week period will be marked by events at dioceses and parishes throughout the country, and will culminate with a July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
Given the recent abundance of competing rhetoric about how the general public perceives religious liberty, and whether the public—and particularly rank and file Catholics—believe that religious liberty is threatened today, the following “Fortnight of Facts” covering the current state of public opinion about religious liberty can provide some context for understanding these debates.
- A majority of Catholics overall (57 percent), like the general public, do not believe the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today. White Catholics are more evenly divided on the issue, with 49 percent saying the right of religious liberty is being threatened, and 47 percent saying it is not being threatened.
- Nearly 9-in-10 (88 percent) Americans agree that America was founded on the idea of religious freedom for everyone, including religious groups that are unpopular.
- White evangelical Protestants (61 percent) are the only major religious group among whom a majority believe religious liberty is threatened in America today.
The full post is available here.