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Americans believe Christians face increasing intolerance but complain too much

POSTED: April 7, 2016 9:09 a.m.
Kelsey Dallas/

A new study sheds light on whether a growing political focus on religious liberty is helping or hurting Christians.

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Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say that Christians are facing growing intolerance, but 43 percent say they're tired of hearing complaints about it, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.

"Both of these facts will matter as Christians profess and contend for their beliefs without sounding false alarms around faux controversies. It won't be easy to strike that balance," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, in the organization's press release.

Using data from 2013 and 2015, the report notes that increasing numbers of U.S. adults say society is becoming more hostile toward Christians and less supportive of religious liberty protections. Sixty percent of respondents told LifeWay Research that religious liberty was on the decline in 2015, compared to 54 percent two years earlier.

But even 38 percent of Christians think believers are complaining too much about these cultural shifts, LifeWay Research reported.

Religious liberty has been a key talking point for the Republican Party in recent years, because politicians have shifted their focus away from contentious family issues like same-sex marriage, as McKay Coppins observed for BuzzFeed News in 2013.

"In speeches, interviews and op-eds, savvy culture warriors have abandoned the fervent rhetoric of the ’80s and ’90s that used to cast conservatives as champions of virtue, enemies of vice and saviors of American society," he wrote. "Instead, their new message centers on ensuring that the rights of religious institutions and believers aren't trampled under a stampede of secularism."

Candidates in the 2016 presidential election have more than tripled the total mentions of "religious liberty" and related terms in GOP debates compared to their 2012 counterparts, Deseret News National reported in early March.

Additionally, Christian groups committed to preserving religious liberty increasingly clash with popular companies who support protections for members of the LGBT community.

For example, Texas Values, a Texas-based group, criticized Apple and Disney this week for pressuring Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to veto a controversial bill that would have allowed people of faith to refuse services to same-sex couples, The Huffington Post reported.

As LifeWay Research's new study illustrates, this spotlight on religious liberty has failed to impress some Americans, such as young adults and people who belong to non-Christian faiths.

"Less than half (42 percent) of those 18 to 24 say religious liberty is on the decline," LifeWay Research reported. And only 43 percent of non-Christians say that intolerance toward Christians has increased.
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