Factsheets Print

Fact Sheet | Catholics and New Battle Lines over Religious Liberty

[06.13.2012]

What You Need to Know

I. Catholics overall (55 percent) and a plurality of Americans (50 percent) DO NOT believe that the right to religious liberty is being threatened in America today. But white Catholics are MORE DIVIDED.

  • A majority of Catholics overall (55 percent) do not believe the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today, compared to 44 percent who say it is being threatened. Americans overall are nearly evenly divided on this question: half (50 percent) of Americans believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today, compared to 49 percent who say it is not being threatened. However, a majority (53 percent) of white Catholics agree that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today, while 47 percent say it is not. [PRRI, November 2012]

II. Like most Americans, Catholics overall believe that most employers SHOULD BE required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. White Catholics are also MORE DIVIDED on this issue.

  • A majority (54 percent) of Catholics overall agree that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. Catholics’ attitudes on this question are virtually identical to Americans overall (56 percent). However, a majority of Catholics (53 percent) and half (50 percent) of Americans overall agree that churches and other places of worship should not have to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost.
  • White Catholics make fewer distinctions between churches and other religiously affiliated employers. A slim majority (51 percent) of white Catholics say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should not be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost, while 45 percent of white Catholics say religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to comply. Six-in-ten (60 percent) white Catholics agree that churches and other places of worship should not be required to comply with this requirement, while less than 4-in-10 (37 percent) say they should have to comply. [PRRI, October 2012

III. Catholics overall say that religiously affiliated agencies should NOT be able to refuse to place children with qualified gay and lesbian couples. White Catholics make sharper distinctions between religiously affiliated agencies that receive federal funding and those that do not.

  • More than 6-in-10 (63 percent) Catholics overall say that religiously affiliated agencies that receive federal funding should not be able to refuse to place children with qualified gay and lesbian couples, compared to 30 percent who say they should be able to refuse. A majority (57 percent) of Catholics also say that religiously affiliated agencies that receive NO federal funding should not be able to refuse to play children with gay and lesbian couples, while 38 percent say they should be able to refuse.
  • White Catholics, like Americans overall, draw sharper distinctions between the responsibilities of religiously affiliated agencies that receive federal funding and those who do not. Like Catholics overall, more than 6-in-10 (63 percent) white Catholics believe that religiously affiliated agencies that receive federal funding should not be able to refuse to place children with qualified gay and lesbian couples, compared to 28 percent who say they should be able to refuse. In contrast, only a slim majority (51 percent) of white Catholics believe religiously affiliated agencies that receive NO federal funding should not be able to refuse to place children with qualified gay and lesbian couples, while 44 percent believe they should be able to refuse. [PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, March 2012]

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life

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