How Young Americans View Religious Freedom

December 15, 2022 | Kelsey Dallas
About the author:

A recent study, commissioned by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, attempts to measure American attitudes toward religious pluralism and religious tolerance, as well as the related constitutional questions. Focusing on what the results reveal about Generation Z (those born in the late 1990s and afterward), Kelsey Dallas writes:

The good news is that most of the country is generally supportive of religious rights—especially when those rights ensure that members of minority groups feel safe living out their faith. . . . The bad news is that skepticism about religious freedom has a clear source, and it’s one that will exert a growing influence over the country in years to come.

The new research showed that members of Gen Z were less likely than members of other generations—often by a wide margin—to “accept and support” policies that protect the right of people of faith, including religious business owners, to hold unpopular or controversial beliefs. For example, just one-third of Gen Z said individuals who believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman should be protected from discrimination, fines or other penalties, compared to 44 percent of respondents overall.

One possible explanation for these trends . . . is that Gen Z is the least religious generation. Around one-third of Gen Z identifies as religiously unaffiliated, compared to 29 percent of millennials, 25 percent of Generation X, and 18 percent of baby boomers, according to the Survey Center on American Life.

While 85 percent of respondents correctly noted that free speech is one of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, just 47 percent remembered that it also protects religious freedom, the survey found.

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