A new report produced by one of the nation's leading social conservative activist organization claims that there has been 76 percent increase in religious freedom violations and a 114 percent surge in documented hostility toward Christian views on marriage and sexuality in the last three years.
In a June 2017 report titled "Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States," the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council highlighted various instances in which Americans' First Amendment rights have been infringed upon or instances in which they faced hostility over their religious views on sexuality that are in disagreement with those of the political left.
The report divided the reported instances into four different categories: "Attacks on Religious Expression in the Public Square," "Attacks on Religious Expression in Schools and Universities," "Censure of Religious Viewpoints Regarding Sexuality," and "Suppression of Religious Viewpoints on Sexuality Using Nondiscrimination Laws."
"When the first edition of this report was released in July 2014, religious freedom violations across the United States were already significantly high. Since that date, the number of incidents has only increased," a summary of the report states. "The first edition — spanning over a decade — contained 90 incidents. Yet 69 new incidents have been added in the short time since the last report. That is a 76 percent increase in just under three years."
The report added that documented hostilities toward religious viewpoints on sexuality and suppression of those views, as highlighted in Section III and Section IV of the report, have "more than doubled in a 114 percent surge."
"Moreover, Sections III and IV, documenting hostility to religious beliefs on natural marriage and human sexuality, contained 42 incidents in the report's first edition," the report explained. "In the time since then, 48 new incidents have been added to these sections."
"While every section of the report shows an increase in the suppression of religious freedom, the changes in Sections III and IV show an even greater increase in the level of hostility to religious beliefs on the topic of sexuality," the report added. "This trend was apparent in the first edition, and following the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and other developments, is even clearer now."
The report states that the numbers are "conservative estimates" and are likely much higher because "some incidents contain more than one person or entity affected by the religious freedom violation, yet we only counted it as one incident."
Among the cases highlighted in Section I of the report — "Attacks on Religious Expression in the Public Square" — is the case of Russell Vought, President Donald Trump's nominee to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Earlier this month, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders was accused of establishing a "religious test" when he questioned Vought, a graduate of Wheaton College, during his confirmation hearing about his evangelical beliefs about the salvation of Muslims and non-Christians. Sanders questioned him about a blog post in which Vought wrote that Muslims "do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned."
Sanders accused Vought of being bigoted and received widespread criticism for questioning a budget nominee's theological beliefs.
"Senator Chris Van Hollen also lectured Vought on his beliefs, implying that his faith would be more acceptable if it was more universal," the FRC report states. "Even though Article VI of the Constitution precludes religious tests for candidates for public office, both senators appear to be engaging in such a test here."
Section I also mentions cases involving secularist groups who pressured local government entities to end or limit religious practices.
Among the new cases highlighted in Section II — "Attacks on Religious Expression in Schools and Universities" — is that of Moriah Bridges, a student who graduated at Beaver High School in Pennsylvania in June, who was told that her prepared remarks for the graduation closure were "unlawful" and "unconstitutional" because they invoked the "Heavenly Father."
"Moriah chose to abide by the school's instructions, but contacted First Liberty Institute and is seeking to meet with the school to discuss the incident," the FRC report explained.
Included in the cases highlighted in Section III of the report is that of Edie and David Delorme, a Baptist couple that owns Kern's Bake Shop in Texas who have in the past refused to make cakes that promote messages that they disagree with, such as cakes that support drugs, tobacco or gambling. But when the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because of their religious convictions, the bakery received threats on social media and on Yelp.
"Though the bakery was never threatened with a lawsuit, they remain a target of criticism by LGBT activists," the FRC report explains.
In Section IV, FRC highlighted cases in which Christians and Christian organizations were subject to legal action or imprisonment for acting in accordance with their religious beliefs on sexuality and marriage.
Section IV, which made up a large chunk of the report, was separated into a number of different categories, such as "Cases Involving Religious Small Businesses," "Cases Involving Religious Schools," "Cases Involving Religious Nonprofit Organizations," "Cases Involving Public Servants, Employees, and Students," and "Cases Involving Churches."
One of the most recent cases listed in Section IV is that of the Tennes family, Catholic farmers who were banned last September from selling produce at a farmer's market in East Lansing, Michigan because they said on Facebook that they would decline to host same-sex weddings on their farm.
Section IV also mentioned how a Catholic hospital in New Jersey was sued earlier this year for not providing transgender reassignment surgery to a woman who identified as a man.
"The Catholic hospital, which follows the guidelines laid out by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, felt it would violate their religious convictions to assist in gender reassignment surgery," the FRC report states. "[Jionni] Conforti and Lambda Legal filed suit against the hospital, alleging violations of state law and the Obama administration rule declaring gender identity to be protected by sex discrimination prohibitions in the ACA."
In April, a Catholic Hospital in California was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on a transgender patient seeking gender reassignment.