More than half of all Americans say religious tolerance for Christians is on the decline, even as more than a third also believes Christians complain too much about how they are treated in society, a newly released Lifeway Research survey suggests.
In a study of just over 1,000 Americans conducted last September, 54% said religious liberty in the United States is in decline, including around a quarter (24%) who strongly agree with that statement. Almost a third (32%) of respondents disagreed, while 14% said they weren't sure. An even greater percentage of Americans believe religious tolerance for Christians in America is in decline, with 59% agreeing that "Christians increasingly are confronted by intolerance in America today."
Less than a quarter (24%) disagreed, and another 18% said they were unsure if intolerance for Christians is increasing in America. African Americans (68%) and white Americans (59%) were more likely to agree than people of other ethnicities (47%). Protestants (69%) and Catholics (59%) were most likely to agree that Christians are facing increasing intolerance.
The survey also found an interesting corollary to the perceived decline in religious liberty: more than a third (36%) of all Americans say Christians in the U.S. "complain too much about how they are treated," including 14% who strongly agree. Nearly half (49%) of respondents disagreed, while another 15% weren't sure. Males (40%) were more likely to agree than women (32%) that Christians complain too much about how they are treated. Respondents over 65 were the most likely to disagree that Christians complain too much (64%).
The survey found that those who hold Evangelical beliefs are more likely to disagree that Christians complain too much (61%) than those who don't have Evangelical beliefs (45%). The religiously unaffiliated (53%) were more likely to agree than either Protestants (27%) or Catholics (34%) that Christians complain too much.
"Intolerance is about cultural pushback," McConnell said. "In the American marketplace of ideas, not all systems of thought are welcomed. The majority of all religions notice this pushback against Christians today."
The survey was conducted online with over 1,005 respondents and has an error margin of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, with error margins being higher among subgroups. Quotas and slight weights were used to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity, education and religion to more accurately reflect the U.S. population. Fifty-three percent of respondents of other religions and 41% of religiously unaffiliated respondents said the same.
Those who attend a worship service at least four times a month (64%) are more likely to believe religious liberty is on the decline in America than those who attend less than once a month (53%). The religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," were the least likely (40%) to agree religious liberty is on the decline.
"Freedoms are not limitless," said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. "As some groups seek more freedom, it often encroaches on another's freedom. It's not surprising those who are more religiously active are the ones noticing reductions in religious freedom compared to those who don't practice religion."
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