A Public Religion Research Institute study released last week found that white Evangelicals hold different views than the rest of the country, including all other faith groups, when it comes to views on whether Christians or Muslims face discrimination in American society.
The PRRI survey, conducted in February of 2,000 U.S. adults, also found that the group labeled as "white Evangelical Protestant" stood apart from other groups on important questions, such as whether small business owners should be allowed to choose who they offer their services to based on their religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, told The Christian Post in an interview that Evangelicals are often specifically targeted in cases of religious freedom versus nondiscrimination laws, however.
Kerri Kupec, who serves as legal counsel and communications director with ADF, pointed out that in such cases LGBT couples have gone into cake-shops, floral shops and other types of businesses owned by Christians, and asked for something that goes against the owners' religious beliefs.
"These [LGBT] couples have gone inside these shops and asked the owner to create custom work to celebrate their particular wedding ceremony," Kupec told CP.
"When the owner has declined because of their faith, they have offered them other things in the shop, they have offered them anything else — [but] then these couples have turned around and sued these small business owners."
Kupec continued: "These couples walk away and claim their feelings have been hurt, but then the small business owner has to pay these terrible fines."
"Tolerance should be a two-way street, and a creative professional should not be ran out of the marketplace simply for declining custom art."
The PRRI survey found that 56 percent of white Evangelicals favor "allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people, if doing so violates their religious beliefs."
Sixty-four percent of all Americans disagreed, however, along with every other Christian group listed, including white Mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, and Catholics.
What is more, 57 percent of white Evangelicals said that Christians face discrimination in America, while 44 percent of the same group said that Muslims face discrimination.
This was again in contrast to all other groups, given that 66 percent of all Americans said Muslims face discrimination, with all other Christian groups agreeing.
CP asked PRRI to crosstab views on Muslim discrimination with views on Christian discrimination for white Evangelicals, and also asked whether worship attendance or any other measure of religiosity was looked at, but the study authors said they could not provide such information.
Surveys looking to measure the attitudes and beliefs of Evangelicals have found different results when it comes to voting habits, depending on the methods of classifying religious voters, which according to another CP report "illustrates the difficulty researchers have in defining 'Evangelical.'"
Prominent Evangelicals, such as Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, have also shown solidarity with important Muslim causes.
The ERLC was even criticized by some SBC members after it joined in an amicus brief in May to support the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge in its lawsuit against a New Jersey township that rejected its application to build a mosque.
Going back to the PRRI results suggesting that white Evangelicals stand opposed to other groups when it comes to religious freedom for business owners, Kupec said that how the question is phrased is very important.
"The question is not about denying service to people who identify as gay, it's about should we as a nation force people of faith to use their creative talents to create custom work to celebrate a religious ceremony, like a same-sex wedding, that directly violates their faith's teaching on what marriage is?" she positioned.
The ADF legal counsel highlighted that it is specifically Christian owners who are being sued "and are in fear of government punishments, simply because they are living according to their convictions when it comes to creating custom work and art."
Kupec argued that all Americans deserve the right to carry out their business without being forced to violate their convictions.
"We wouldn't want a Muslim painter to be forced to paint a mural about [the prophet] Muhammad; we wouldn't want an Orthodox Jewish writer to have to write a piece in the paper that contradicts the teachings of The Torah," she said.
As for why different groups of Christians seem to disagree on the issue of religious freedom for small business owners, she offered:
"If there is differences among Christians in America, well I would suggest that they remember that marriage being between a man and a woman is something that is taught across Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; and we are talking about creative professionals being forced to create custom work to celebrate a marriage ceremony that directly violates Christianity's teachings on marriage."
The PPRI study also found that 67 percent, or two-thirds of the American public, are in favor of the contraception mandate, or requiring employers to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost.
As many as 71 percent of Americans also said that they oppose allowing churches to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status.
Kupec said such attitudes paint a concerning picture about religious freedom, and freedom in general in America, arguing that if people are OK with things like Catholic organizations being forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, then "there's a real problem."
"Then we have lost our sense of freedom, we have lost our sense of what it means to live in a truly diverse society," she said.
"America is a beautiful nation, because it has always respected the religious beliefs of others. That's why people came here, so they can live out their beliefs peacefully, and consistent with their convictions," Kupec concluded.
"But if people are no longer seeing that, understanding that, then we are in trouble."