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Most Americans oppose ‘religious freedom’ laws allowing for LGBTQ discrimination

White evangelicals are the only religious group that's for it, according to a new study.


Marissa Higgins


Posted on Feb 8, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 1:17 am CDT

The Trump administration hasn’t been shy about its desire to protect the liberties of religious institutions. The president himself has promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which would allow religious organizations to openly advocate for and donate to politicians, and a recently leaked document stated that Trump has also considered granting religious institutions the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their beliefs. 

However, the American people don’t seem to agree with revoking protections for LGBTQ people, even when faced with supposed conflicts faith. A recent study by Public Region Reseach Institute found that the majority of people in the U.S. do not feel that their religious beliefs should provide a legal basis to deny service to others. 

About 61 percent of religious Americans oppose a “religious freedom” bill like the one Trump administration has courted, with just about all but one religious group cool with offering services to same-sex couples: white evangelicals.

PRRI American Values graph

PRRI American Values graph


According to PRRI’s data—based on 40,509 interviews conducted throughout 2016—50 percent of white evangelical Protestants support the option for small businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their faith. This is in stark contrast to where other religions and religious subsects stand on the subject. For example, more than 60 percent of black Protestants, 60 percent of Muslims, and 63 percent of white and Hispanic Catholics oppose giving small business owners the option to discriminate against queer people based on their religious convictions. 


Unsurprisingly, religious groups that are generally in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriage overwhelmingly oppose discrimination on behalf of religious faith. For example, nearly 90 percent of Unitarian Universalists, and roughly 75 percent of both Buddhists and Jewish Americans oppose the notion that small business owners should be legally able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. 

While groups who oppose LGBTQ equality on the basis of religious freedom are a minority, they are a vocal one, and much of the queer community is worried about the influence these voters might have in parts of the country where evangelicalism is most concentrated. 


The findings of the American Values Atlas survey are significant when considering the stakes for the LGBTQ community under the Trump administration. With and without protections, same-sex couples have been denied services from buying wedding cakes to getting marriage licenses on the basis that the person providing the service felt it was a conflict of interest with their faith. 

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*First Published: Feb 8, 2017, 12:06 pm CST