Twenty states have enacted laws similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Do you want your state to have a similar act?
How Americans answer that question depends on how it’s asked. Or, it might be that some Americans are confused. In a case of “torn from the headlines” TV, the hit CBS drama The Good Wife explored our national confusion about these issues in an hour-long episode Sunday night. News blogs immediately buzzed about the provocative episode. The Daily Beast described the show as “among the wildest cases of art imitating life in recent TV memory,” after the episode ended. The Huffington Post wrote that “the similarities were almost too eerie” when compared with recent news events.
On TV, the episode ended in ambiguity. Which legal value should win? Religious rights of merchants or the rights of all couples, including LGBT men and women, to equal access to local businesses. The Good Wife left readers to decide for themselves.
What do national surveys show us? As a population, we’re about as divided as the characters in the CBS drama.
In a national survey a few days ago, Rasmussen Reports asked a straightforward question about the issue: “Do you favor or oppose a law in your state that would allow businesses to refuse service to customers for religious reasons?” A majority of Americans (53%) oppose such a law, according to the poll. Just over a third of Americans (35%) favor it. The rest are unsure.
Then Rasmussen Reports asked another question, a more specific one. “Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage. If asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, should that wedding photographer have the right to say no?” Yes, said a large majority. Seven of ten (70%) said that the Christian wedding photographer should have the right to refuse service for religious reasons. Only 19% said no, with the remainder unsure. Opinions don’t vary much by gender or age.
The responses to these two questions mean that a sizable proportion of Americans oppose laws that permit religion-based refusal of service and they believe a wedding photographer should have the right to refuse service on religious grounds.
These responses might seem contradictory or confused. But, it illustrates a well-known principle: People can agree in general, but disagree on specifics. They can oppose a law that allows religion-based discrimination, but when faced with a concrete example, they can change their minds.
Do you support or oppose in general laws like Indiana’s?
What about the specific situation of the Christian wedding photographer?
Do you support or oppose the photographer’s right to refuse service for a same-sex wedding ceremony?
- Religious Freedom: Who’s on the right side of history?
- Religious Freedom: ‘The Good Wife’ (and polls) say we’re confused
- Religious Freedom: Could 100-plus tech leaders be wrong?
- Religious Freedom: Were Thomas Jefferson and Shaker Ann Lee both right?
- Religious Freedom: Can we transcend value conflict?