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Hostility Towards Religion Continues To Grow In America

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Liberty Institute, a legal organization in Plano, Texas, has released the report, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2014 Edition,” featuring more than 1,300 cases of religious hostility, persecution and/or Constitutional violations of rights in the United States.

According to the report,

Hostility to religion in America is still growing. Because religion is so vital to a free and well-ordered society, our goal is to expose and document this growing hostility to help Americans confront and reverse it. The hostility is growing in the “Public Arena” of public places, government, and the workplace. it is growing in the “Schoolhouse” of education, from K-12 through higher academia. it is growing in the sector of “Churches and Ministries” where one might expect it to be safest. And it is growing in the areas of society that encompass the “Military,” which includes our veterans. The growth of hostility is undeniable and it is dangerous.

The report covers incidents such as one where a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy wrote a Biblical quote on his personal whiteboard. He was asked to remove it when other cadets said its mere presence was offensive. The report also cites numerous legal cases where churches, synagogues and other religious organizations were denied the right to build or expand; several of them were consistently harassed by local officials.

Nate Madden at the National Catholic Reporter quotes George Yancey, professor of sociology at the University of North Texas and co-author of So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States, about the report.

My research suggests a certain willingness of Americans to dehumanize conservative Christians. Yet many of these individuals also espouse a desire for religious neutrality. So how do we reconcile these two concepts? I discovered in my research that these individuals, who tend to be white, male, wealthy, highly educated, politically ‘progressive’ and nonreligious, tend to use mechanisms that can be justified for nonreligious reasons but have a disparate impact upon Christians.

Read “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America” at Liberty Institute.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • I think that strongly religious people assume they have a right to profess their religious beliefs everywhere, including public places like courthouses, schools and military bases. They don’t seem to understand that their religion is not special, or unique, and that their imposition of their personal religious beliefs in public places is offensive to others. We celebrate and protect freedom of religion – which means one’s ability to practice one’s religion in one’s home, and one’s church or temple. It also means that everyone who doesn’t share your particular religious beliefs has a right to be spared from them in public spaces.

    Religious people, especially it seems conservative Christians, seem to think they are being persecuted because they can’t plaster their religion on public walls and spaces. To believe that is persecution requires one to ignore everyone else, who have an equal right to be free from the imposition of others’ religious beliefs.

    • Greg

      You’re right that many religious people make that assumption and don’t recognize it as an assumption. In my experience with Christians, only a small percentage don’t realize that there are reasonable limits to self-expression. There will always be a tension between freedom of and from self-expression, as this is very difficult to work out in practice without trampling on the rights of one group or another.

      With that said, do you recognize that many irreligious people make the same assumption about their beliefs? Do you realize that you have made an assumption that no religion is special or unique? Do you realize that you have made a wrong assumption about the First Amendment, and that it does not restrict religious freedom to private arenas?

      • I don’t see how it could be other than “no religion is special or unique”, in that every religion assumes that it is special, unique, the “chosen one”. And every religion is equally justified in thinking so, meaning that all religions are equally “un-special” by definition. Or to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, every religion is “above average”.

        I do understand that people are free to express their religious beliefs in public spaces. But they are not free to ask for special treatment, or the endorsement of government, which is why the Constitution does not allow sanctioned prayer in schools. And it is why, if Christians insist on placing a monument to the Decalogue in the town square, satanists are equally justified in placing a monument to Beelzebub, and Muslims to the Koran.

        It is my experience that Christians want special treatment, and that when Christians complain that they are being restricted or discriminated against for their religious beliefs, they do not extend those same expectations or claims of religious rights to Muslims or Sikhs or Satanists or Hindus. Christianity is no more important than, or special, than any other religion, as far as access to public places goes. And Christianity is no more excluded or discriminated against than Islam or Judaism or any other religion.

      • Anthony Hooker

        George Washington said “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

        Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
        Proclamation – Day of National Thanksgiving
        October 3, 1789

    • Anthony Hooker

      Not just at home, or church. In public also as the Supreme Court has repeatedly stated.

  • Guzzman

    The report by the Liberty Institute, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2014 Edition” is a fraud. For example, the case involving the Air Force academy cadet who was asked to remove a Bible verse from his “personal whiteboard” was grossly misrepresented in the report as a violation of the cadet’s religious rights.

    Being a government employee, I followed this case very closely as it unfolded in various government newsletters. The cadet was acting in a Team Leader position, and as a government employee acting in an official capacity, his agency could have been charged with violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S.
    Constitution when he posted a religious quote in a PUBLIC AREA of a government facility. Twenty-nine fellow cadets, some of whom were also Christian, filed complaints against the Team Leader. The applicable military regulations and Constitutional prohibitions were brought to bear, and that is why Air Force officials ultimately agreed that the proselytizing religious quote had to be erased from the whiteboard. This was not a violation of anyone’s religious rights, it was a violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause prohibiting government endorsement of religion.

    • So, what’s next? I can’t pray my Rosary on the public bus? Wear my crucifix necklace in public? Say grace before a meal, quietly, in a restaurant? By the opinions expressed here, any show of devotion/faith in PUBLIC should be verboten.

      • Guzzman

        It appears you misunderstood my point, which was limited to what James Madison called “the separation of Religion & Gov’t.” The Liberty Institute made the same mistake. Those who work in local, state, or Federal government cannot lawfully use their government positions to promote religion while acting in an official capacity. It is settled case law. The Federal courts have repeatedly made the distinction between government speech and private speech about religion:

        Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990): “There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”

        The “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views publicly as well as privately, and the “establishment” clause constrains government from promoting or otherwise taking steps toward establishment of religion.

        So unless you are an agent of the government acting in an official capacity, none of your examples of religious expression would seem to apply.

        • Anthony Hooker

          Samuel Adams said this in an official capacity” “And as it is our duty to extend our wishes to the happiness of the great family of man, I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the sceptre of Him who is Prince of Peace.”
          –As Governor of Massachusetts, Proclamation of a Day of Fast, March 20, 1797.

          Josiah Bartlett

          Called on the people of New Hampshire . . .” to confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord.”
          Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792.

          Congress, U. S. House Judiciary Committee, 1854
          “Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle… In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity… That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants”
          Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), pp. 6-9.

          • Guzzman

            Your quotes suffer from a common, but fatal flaw – they precede the ratification of the secular U.S. Constitution and the eventual disestablishment of state churches that followed.

            Earlier in our history, 9 of the 13 American colonies had official or “established” churches. All 13 colonies had some form of state-supported religion. Religious differences produced untold strife. Dissenters were jailed, tortured, or banished – some were executed as heretics. The last of these state churches was disestablished in 1833, mostly as a result of state legislatures responding to public outcry.

            Later, the First Amendment’s ban on Federal establishment of religion was officially extended to the states via the 14th Amendment. As the law now stands, Federal, state, and local governments are required to remain neutral on matters of religion, neither favoring nor disfavoring any religious viewpoint.

            Unlike today’s religious conservatives, 17th and 18th century evangelicals understood the need for separation of religion and government. Baptist Lewis Lunsford wrote that “the unlawful cohabitation between Church and State, which has so often been looked upon as holy wedlock, must now suffer a separation and be put forever asunder.” Evangelicals insisted upon separating religious from civil authority because they had suffered from the legal discrimination and physical persecution that results when government “chooses sides” in religion.

          • Anthony Hooker

            You need to check the dates again. Each of those quotes are after the ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made many, many things unconstitutional that were never meant to be unconstitutional. SCOTUS has overstepped their authority. The Supreme Court was never intended to have the final power. The founders said the Supreme Court was “Necessarily the weakest of the 3 branches of government”

            Many people think we have 3 equal branches of government. The founders said otherwise.

            There is a misconception of what most of us mean by “Christian nation”. We do not mean that we have a government established religion. We do not mean that everyone must be a christian. We simply mean our nation was founded on Biblical principles. What Biblical principle do people disagree with? They always bring up the law of the Old Testament. That is not the law we are based on. The OT law was for the Isrealites.

            I am a Baptist myself, and I believe the government should not have the authority to force any specific religious rules or laws on its people. That is not what I’m saying. The first amendment says Congress can’t make any law regarding religion. Yet the Supreme Court is legislating from the bench making it illegal for me to exercise my religion freely. Look at all the cases in the survey mentioned in the article above. (Undeniable:“Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America,) There is a new one out for 2016.

          • Guzzman

            Yes, I understand that the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the states in 1788 and was set to take effect on March 4, 1789. But you need to read my entire sentence: “Your quotes suffer from a common, but fatal flaw – they precede the ratification of the secular U.S. Constitution AND the eventual disestablishment of state churches that followed.”

            Two of your quotes are from state governors issuing proclamations, one in 1792 and one in 1797. Official “established” state churches were not disestablished until well into the 19th century. This is because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting government establishment of religion only applied to the Federal government. The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, and through its due process clause, the courts were able to extend much of the Bill of Rights to state and local governments as cases arose. Everson v. Board of Education was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which applied the Establishment Clause in the country’s Bill of Rights to state law, and that wasn’t decided until 1947.

            Your other quote was from 1854 and was merely an internal committee report to Congress. The opinion of the committee was just that, an opinion carrying no weight of law whatsoever. You are grasping at straws. And as I already explained in some detail, the Liberty Institute’s report cited various cases of “hostility” towards religion that were nothing more than Establishment Clause violations. I went into great detail about the Air Force cadet Team Leader who posted a Bible verse in a public area. Other cadets, including Christians, filed a complaint. Military regulations and constitutional restrictions prohibit government employees, while acting in an official capacity, from using their government authority to promote, endorse, or otherwise establish religion. I already provided a quote from the Supreme Court on that very issue.

            I am only describing what the law is – your acceptance of it is a separate matter.

          • Anthony Hooker

            I’m talking about the way it was meant to be by the founding fathers. Not how the Supreme court overstepped their bounds and changed the law, which they have no authority to do.

  • Americans may have a strange freewill lifestyle, but they stay out of Syria or Saudi Arabia because we Americans do not support children reared to become suicide bombers and do not support ‘anti-women’ religious doctrine so we do not immigrate to these places.
    If muslims want to run away from the wars and live in America, they need to be Americans, speak English and dress like Americans, etc., not remain what they were and quit building religious mosques across our nation which supports negative view of America. Pre-9/11, jihadists were meeting, teaching and promoting terrorist doctrine against America and so what is different now? nothing. Donald Trump might a stoogie candidate but what he’s said actually reflects how Americans feel.