Defending Religious Liberty

Defending religious freedom for all.

America First Policies recognizes the importance of protecting religious liberty. The freedom to practice one’s religion is a core American value enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Laws and regulations on the local, state, and federal level that force individuals to violate deeply held religious beliefs threaten this fundamental human right. Our government should defend this vital freedom at home and promote the right to freedom of religion abroad.  

The Facts:

  • A significant majority of Americans say religion is deeply important in their daily lives.
  • Approximately four out of five Americans belong to a religion.
  • 71% of adults pray daily or weekly according to Pew’s religious forum.
  • 21 states have passed a version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act as of 2015 to protect religious liberty on the state level.
  • In January 2018, the United States Department of Health and Human Services established the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights to ensure federal enforcement of laws to protect religious freedom and conscience.
  • In 2016, the United States appeared in the International Christian Concern’s “Hall of Shame” report for the first time. The assessment cited a growing “hostility” toward Christians within society.
  • The 2017 edition of the “UNDENIABLE” report, released by the First Liberty Institute, documents more than 1,400 religious liberty violations in the United States in 2017 alone. This is a 15% increase since 2016.
  • The state of Colorado ordered Jack Phillips to design a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding reception, which violated his deeply held religious beliefs. He appealed the case and in June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jack.
  • Decorated Army Chaplain Scott Squires faced a near-career-ending “dereliction of duty” charge after refusing to perform a ceremony for a same-sex couple. He was later cleared of all charges.
  • Due to the Affordable Care Act, the federal government ordered the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious nonprofits to provide certain insurance plans that included abortion-related drugs to their employees. The Little Sisters of the Poor and others appealed the case and in May 2016, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to vacate decisions against them by lower courts.
  • Ensuring that people across the world are free to practice religion has long been a fundamental goal of American foreign policy.
  • The United States Department of State releases a yearly international religious freedom report, scoring all 195 countries on their commitment to religious liberty.
  • According to the United States Department of State, countries like China, Venezuela, and Iran continue to obstruct those wishing to practice certain religions.
  • In 2018, the United States Department of Treasury issued sanctions on Turkey and Myanmar for violations of religious freedom in those countries.

Background:

United States Department of State, Bureau of Democrats, Human Rights, and Labor, “2017 International Religious Freedom Report,” May 29, 2018, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2017/

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “2018 Annual Report,” April 2018, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf

United States Department of Health and Human Services, “HHS Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” January 18, 2018, https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/01/18/hhs-ocr-announces-new-conscience-and-religious-freedom-division.html

Congressman Frank Wolf, 105th United States Congress, “International Religious Freedom Act of 1998,” https://www.congress.gov/bill/105th-congress/house-bill/2431
First Liberty Institute, “UNDENIABLE 2017 Edition,” September 15, 2017, https://firstliberty.org/undeniable2017/

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin, “ A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military, Volume II,” Family Research Council, May 18, 2017, https://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF17E95.pdf

Jay Sekulow, “Religious Liberty and Expression Under Attack: Restoring America’s First Freedom,” Heritage Foundation, October 1, 2012, https://www.heritage.org/civil-society/report/religious-liberty-and-expression-under-attack-restoring-americas-first


Read More:

Congressman Steve Scalise and Congressman Randy Weber, “Restoring religious liberty,” Washington Times, July 26, 2018, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/26/trump-leads-the-way-to-restore-religious-liberty-w/

Kay Coles James, “Religion and American Civil Society,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 23, 2018, https://www.heritage.org/public-opinion/commentary/religion-and-american-civil-societ

Paul Strand, “The Death of Religious Freedom: ‘We Have a Public Who Doesn't Understand What's Going on Behind the Scenes,’” CBN News, January 17, 2018, http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/2018/january/the-death-of-religious-freedom-we-have-a-public-who-doesnt-understand-whats-going-on

Ryan T. Anderson, “The Continuing Threat to Religious Liberty,” National Review, August 3, 2017, https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/religious-liberty-under-attack/

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, “America is taking action on international religious freedom,” The Hill, June 3, 2018, http://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/390312-america-is-finally-taking-action-on-international-religious-freedom

Olivia Enos and Sarah Roberts, “US Pastor’s House Arrest in Turkey Puts Religious Freedom in the Spotlight,” The Daily Signal, July 30, 2018, https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/07/30/us-pastors-house-arrest-in-turkey-puts-religious-freedom-in-the-spotlight/

Alex Titus and Alex Entz, “Can You Hear Us Now? Chinese Christians Cry Out amidst Oppression,” Providence Magazine, May 29, 2018, https://providencemag.com/2018/05/can-you-hear-us-now-chinese-christians-cry-out-amidst-oppression/

Roger Severino and Elizabeth Slattery, “Little Sisters of the Poor Win Big in Obamacare Case,” The Daily Signal, May 16, 2016, https://www.dailysignal.com/2016/05/16/little-sisters-of-the-poor-win-big-in-obamacare-case/

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