Americans place a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians than for other faith groups, ranking Muslims as the least deserving of the protections, according to a new survey. Solid majorities said it was extremely or very important for the U.S. to uphold religious freedom in general. However, the percentages varied dramatically when respondents were asked about specific faith traditions, according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
First up from the God Machine this week is a surprising new poll that shows when Americans express support for religious liberty under the Constitution's First Amendment, they're really supporting their faith's freedom to worship -- not the faiths they don't like. The Associated Press reported this week:
At a recent debate for Republican presidential candidates, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) argued, with a straight face, that Islam is "different" when it comes to religious liberty. "The fact of the matter is Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law," Santorum said. "It is also a civil government. It is also a form of government so the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong."
Remarkably, plenty of Americans also appear comfortable with different standards for different traditions. According to the survey's findings, 82% of the public agreed that protections for Christians are important. For Jewish Americans, support slips to roughly 70%. For Mormons, it's 67%. And at the bottom, 63% of Americans are on board with protections with those with no religion, and only 61% say the same about Muslims.
Some may take solace in the fact that majorities are willing to endorse protections across the board, but the gap between groups is nevertheless disheartening.
Given the nature of the political debate, perhaps it's not too shocking that so many people would embrace an ugly double-standard, but this doesn't change the fact that we're talking about public attitudes that cut against bedrock American principles.
The idea that the First Amendment applies to everyone, regardless of their belief system, and that the law doesn't play favorites among traditions, is a core constitutional truth -- which many Americans evidently take issue with.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Ironically, creationists apply descent with modification to their tactics: "In what is almost a too-clever illustration of how evolution works, a scientist at Australian National University has created a chart to show us the evolution of anti-evolution bills. The study was published last week in Science, on the 10th anniversary of the historic Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, which struck down the teaching of intelligent design, an attempt to mask creationism with pseudo-scientific language. Evolutionary biologist Nick Matzke revealed how these bills have evolved over time to avoid potential predators such as the pesky Constitution and public outcry."
* A patient at a Catholic hospital in California asked for a tubal ligation during a scheduled C-section procedure, but the hospital refused on religious grounds. Because refusing "pregnancy-related care" for non-medical reasons is illegal in California, the patient and the ACLU filed a lawsuit that's worth keeping an eye on. The first court hearing is scheduled for this Tuesday.
* And the fine folks at Right Wing Watch identified "five failed right-wing prophecies and predictions" from 2015, "including fears about the looming imposition of martial law, establishment of Obama's private army and the assassination of conservative leaders." My personal favorite were the prophecies about divine punishment in 2015 over marriage equality, which some religious right figures said would include hurricanes, riots, and a mass migration away from the United States. None of this actually happened.