Majority of Americans fear politicians using pandemic to infringe religious liberties

Faith leaders largely appear to be telling worshipers to obey states' stay-at-home orders

Published: April 24, 2020 10:33am

Updated: April 24, 2020 11:41pm

Fifty-four percent of American voters are concerned that public officials will use the coronavirus pandemic to infringe upon the religious liberties of faith communities, including 30% who are very concerned, according to a new Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen.

The poll found 70% of Republicans are concerned, along with 51% of Independents and 43% of Democrats. Among those who Strongly Approve of the president, 76% are concerned about the threat to religious liberties. Among those who Strongly Disapprove, 61% are not concerned.

Just the News Poll, Infringement upon religious liberties
Just the News Daily Poll
With Scott Rasmussen

A federal judge suggested the city of Louisville’s efforts to stop a drive-in Easter service was tantamount to a plot to criminalize religion. The Kansas Supreme Court, however, upheld a ban on religious gatherings of 10 or more people.

And a Florida megachurch pastor was arrested for defying stay-at-home orders and holding church in person. He finally relented and chose to hold Easter services online.

With controversy and uncertainty, the pandemic has ignited an extraordinary battle across America between religious liberty and the security state’s efforts to slow the coronavirus. It’s one that could eventually land in then Supreme Court.

"Disputes about Easter services and other religious gatherings have been in the news," Rasmussen said. "Such coverage may have heightened religious liberty concerns. However, it must be noted that concerns about government infringement on religious liberty have been strong for at least a decade. It’s one reason that evangelical Christians strongly preferred President Trump in 2016, despite reservations about his personal lifestyle."

Some faith leaders are warning worshipers not to disobey state-issued, stay-at-home orders, saying religious freedoms have nothing to do with the shuttering of faith-based gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

"What's happening in this jurisdiction is not an issue of religious persecution or restriction of religious freedom," Tony Perkins, president of the Christian lobbying organization the Family Research Council, told Just the News' David Brody.

Rasmussen also said: "Other polling I’ve conducted show that 35% of voters think opening churches and religious services should be a top priority when the lockdown ends. Naturally, people will make their own decisions to attend. And, of course, caring church leaders would be expected to do all they could to create a safe environment."

Respondents were asked: “How concerned are you that some public officials are using the pandemic as an excuse to infringe upon the religious liberties of faith communities?" They replied as below:

  • 30% Very concerned
  • 24% Somewhat concerned 
  • 17% Not very concerned
  • 23% Not at all concerned
  •  5% Not sure

The national survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted April 16-18, 2020 by Rasmussen, a polling veteran. Margin of sampling error: +/- 2.8% for full sample. 

To see the full demographic cross-tabulations for this polling question, click below:

To see the methodology and sample demographics for this polling question, click below:

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