Religious Right's Persecution Narrative Gains Traction, Even As Most Americans Oppose Them On Policy

Polling released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute underscores the success that the Right has had in pushing its religious persecution narrative, even as majorities of Americans support the policies that the Right claims are threatening religious liberty.

PRRI finds that a “majority (54%) of Americans believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today,” including 80 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of white evangelical Protestants.

But at the same time, large majorities support the very policies that the Right is claiming are persecuting people of faith, including the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate and LGBT nondiscrimination policies.

PRRI found that 61 percent of Americans believe that publicly-held corporations should “be required to provide their employees with health insurance that includes contraception at no cost” and that smaller majorities support the same requirement for privately-held corporations, small businesses, and even religiously-affiliated institutions.

What’s more, PRRI reports that “Americans overwhelming reject the notion that small business owners should be allowed to refuse to provide services or goods to individuals because they are gay or lesbian, atheist, Jewish or black, even if doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs.”

Only 16 percent wanted to allow small businesses to refuse services to gays and lesbians, only slightly more than the 10 percent who still think businesses should be allowed to refuse service to black people because of their race.

The results of PRRI’s research show the enormous success that the Religious Right is having in building its narrative of religious persecution, even as the public opposes its actual policy goals.

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