American views on religious freedom

Predictably (I regret to say), many Americans regard Christianity as more deserving of religious freedom than other faiths. Or at least so suggests a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago.

Eighty-two percent of those surveyed said that religious liberty for Christians is important, but this fell to about 70 percent for Jews, 67 percent for Mormons, 63 percent for the non-religious, and 61 percent for Muslims. There was not much difference between the views of Republicans and Democrats.

The polling was carried out December 10-13 following terrorist attacks carried out by Islamists in Paris and in San Bernardino, California and negative remarks about Muslims from Donald Trump and others, so the timing of the questions may have influenced the results.

A number of people expressed support for the religious rights of Muslims who renounced religious violence, but it’s not clear whether they were specifically asked about that. Obviously, only a tiny fraction of the world’s billion-and-a-half Muslims support violence. This article, for example, estimates that only 0.00006625 of Muslims are affiliated with violent groups, and even if it underestimates the number by a factor of ten (or a hundred, or a thousand), the percentage is microscopic, a nearly invisible slice on a pie chart. And religiously motivated violence isn’t limited to Muslims. Even in the U.S. we’ve seen a number of examples of violence by Christians opposed to abortion. I’m not suggesting that fear of terrorist fanatics is ungrounded; obviously it isn’t. But we should keep in mind that the number of terrorist killings in the U.S. this year is far fewer than the number of people killed accidentally by relatives, not to mention deaths in traffic accidents.

More details on the poll can be found at this link. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a detailed report on the poll, including the questions asked and the cross-tabs it would be nice to see. Presumably that’s forthcoming from AP-NORC.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research is a joint project of The Associated Press and NORC, as explained here.

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