Support for freedom of religion depends on religion

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Religious freedom is part of the bedrock of America's system of government, but this year's political rhetoric is straining that system.

When it comes to religious freedom for many of us, however, it depends on the religion.

According to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 82 percent said religious liberty is important -- for Christians.

That dropped off to 67 percent for Mormons, 70 percent for Jews and 61 percent for Muslims, according to results of the poll.

It should be noted that the poll was conducted Dec. 10-13, shortly after Islamic extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California, and after Donald Trump's call for a ban on immigration by Muslims.

The survey showed 88 percent of Republicans said it was important to protect the religious liberty of Christians, and only 60 percent said so for Muslims.

For Democrats, the numbers were 83 percent for Christians and 67 percent for Muslims.

There's no getting around radical Islam involvement in acts of terrorism which take the lives of others. Civil libertarians use the same line of reasoning, albeit in a far less extreme example, against Christians who they say would deprive gay couples of the right to buy a wedding license or purchase a wedding cake.

Declining to participate in a court-mandated act of political correctness is a far cry from killing infidels, although both could be classified as acts of conscience.

But religious freedom is a two-edged sword.

"No religion is an island," Eric Rassbach, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Associated Press.

"People may not realize you cannot have a system where there's one rule for one group and another rule for a different group you don't like. If somebody else's religion is being limited by the government, yours is liable to be limited in the same way. Even if you only care about your own particular group, you should care about other groups, too, because that's the way the law works."

Nebraska is far from immune to prejudice, but with fewer than 2 million people, we're much less likely to pass judgment on our neighbors based on stereotypes and much more likely to view them by their unique individual merits.

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