Americans Split on Whether Religious Freedom or LGBT Rights Are More Important

Masterpiece Cakeshop has been the target of the ACLU and gay activists over their refusal to provide services for a homosexual wedding. | (9news Denver, 2013)

Americans are divided as to whether religious freedom or LGBT rights should be favored when the two concepts conflict with one another.

Recent findings from the Pew Research Center show the American public near evenly split on whether or not a business can refuse to service a same-sex wedding on religious grounds.

Out of a sample of about 4,500 adults, Pew found that 48 percent of respondents believed that businesses which provided wedding services should be allowed to refuse to service gay weddings if the owner has religious objections. 49 percent of respondents believed that businesses should be required to service same-sex weddings despite religious objections, and 3 percent said they were unsure.

"The survey of more than 4,500 U.S. adults explores recent controversies that have pitted claims of religious liberty and traditional morality against civil rights and nondiscrimination policies," noted Pew last week.

A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. | (Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

"And it finds that Americans are more closely divided on two other hotly debated questions: whether businesses should be able to refuse service to same-sex couples, and whether transgender people should be required to use particular restrooms."

On that latter point Pew found another nearly even split, with 51 percent of respondents saying transgenders can use the bathroom of the gender identity they presently identify as, 46 percent saying transgenders should be required to use the bathroom of their biological sex, and 3 percent saying they were unsure.

"While most say homosexual behavior is either morally acceptable (17%) or not a moral issue (45%), about a third of U.S. adults (35%) believe it is morally wrong," continued Pew.

"And among those who say homosexual behavior is morally wrong, a large majority (76%) also say businesses that provide wedding services should be able to refuse to serve same-sex couples if the business owner has religious objections."

Pew's survey comes as controversy continues in the United States over what extent individuals and businesses can object on religious grounds to servicing same-sex weddings.

Before and after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that gay marriage should be legalized, many have expressed concern that the advance of LGBT rights will come at the expense of religious freedom.

For example, in April the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc., who was found guilty of discrimination by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for refusing for religious reasons to make a gay wedding cake, even though Colorado bakers may refuse to write a Bible verse on a cake.

Concerns over the impact on religious liberty by LGBT activism has led some politicians to support legislation meant to protect socially conservative groups and businesses, like the First Amendment Defense Act.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage," reads FADA when it was first introduced in June 2015.

"This Act shall be construed in favor of a broad protection of free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this Act and the Constitution."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Facebook: michael.gryboski Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter: MichaelGryboskiCP

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