Americans and Pastors Have Differing Views on Direction of Religious Liberty

NEWS RELEASE:

Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence told Liberty University graduates who were celebrating Commencement that they should prepare to be “shunned” for being a Christian, especially as it becomes “acceptable and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith” in the United States.

Americans seem to be on track with the vice president, says the American Pastors Network According to a new Barna study, more agree that religious freedom is declining. Pastors, however, don’t seem to be as concerned.

“Just by reading the news and seeing case after case of bakers, florists and photographers head to court, Americans realize that our religious liberties are under attack,” said APN President and national radio and television host Sam Rohrer. “With fewer living by a Biblical worldview and fewer identifying as Christian, and with more calling themselves ‘nones’ and more of our politicians heading further left, how can this not be the case? Christians are—and should be—concerned that standing up for their beliefs will become increasingly more difficult. They will likely turn to their pastors and church leaders for guidance, but if ministers don’t see the risk of a loss of religious freedom, there will be a dangerous and demoralizing disconnect.”

Barna conducted the “Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture” study over four years and found that, in 2012, one-third of Americans (33%) said religious freedom was worse than the 10 years before. By 2015, that number had increased to 41% who stated religious liberty had declined, and in 2017, the number ticked up again, to 43%. In all, Barna says, “the general belief that religious freedom in the U.S. is on the decline increased by 10 percentage points over the course of five years.”

Perplexingly, though, Barna found that Protestant pastors’ concern about restrictions to religious freedom is actually decreasing, dropping from 55% in the 2014 survey of all Christian and non-Christian clergy who said they were “very concerned that religious freedom will become more restricted in the next five years.” This percentage fell to below half (49%) in the 2015-16 study and to one-third (34%) in 2017.

Rohrer said the fact that parishioner and pastor views don’t match on this issue is concerning.

“Among the most precious constitutional guarantees is the God-given right to freedom of religion, which is under attack in our nation as we speak and must be defended, lest we awake to the stark reality that while we slept, the enemy crept in unaware,” Rohrer added. “Like the proverbial frog in the water who refuses to jump out as the water temperature increases because the change happens gradually, so are freedoms lost in nations and are being lost in our nation right now. Across the broad spectrum of freedoms we’ve come to take for granted, there are increasing attacks. At first, they are only nibbles, the temperature only slightly increased. Then the nibbles become bites. The temperature goes up. At some point the water begins to boil and it’s too late to move. Then that fragile freedom is gone, never to return to that generation. History is replete with examples of such collapse, moving from freedom to bondage.”

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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