Most Americans say that religious groups providing community services should qualify for government funding alongside their secular counterparts, according to the 2021 Religious Freedom Index survey released Wednesday.
The annual online survey, released by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, found that 71% of respondents held the view — up 6 percentage points over last year.
“As Americans bounce back from a divisive year, we see an increased commitment to a wide range of religious freedom principles,” said Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket and co-editor of the survey. “This across-the-board support shows a renewed confidence that protecting religious exercise and expression benefits American culture and civic life.”
Sixty-two percent of respondents said people of faith should be free to voice their religiously based opinion in public, even on controversial matters, and 63% agreed with a statement that “parents are the primary educators of their children.” They said parents should have the final say in what their children are taught and support the right of parents to keep children out of “morally objectionable” public school content.
Sixty-three percent said religious student groups should have a place on public university campuses in the same way as secular student organizations.
Fifty-two percent said worship services are essential (62% for funerals) and the government should not ban such gatherings.
The survey found significant support for religious exemptions to vaccine mandates: 46% said workers who decline a COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds shouldn’t be fired for doing so. Respondents who work with people of faith were much more likely to support such objections, the survey found.
“After a period where we all have experienced restrictions on daily life at some level, Americans seem more averse to placing restrictions on their neighbors, coworkers and friends for their religious beliefs,” said Katie Geary, content manager at Becket and co-editor of the index. “As Americans work together to bridge partisan divides, this naturally extends to greater support for religious freedom.”
The online survey is conducted each fall by the independent firm Heart and Mind Strategies. It uses a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults who opt in for such polls. Becket said that probability sampling is not typically done for such online panels, but a hypothetical calculation of such a probability would show a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.