Protecting religious freedom for some or for all

Americans (82 percent) place a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians than for other religious groups.

Solid majorities said it was extremely or very important for the U.S. to uphold religious freedom in general. However, the percentages varied when respondents were asked about specific religions, according to a 12/10-13, 2015 poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Eighty-two percent said religious liberty protections were extremely or very important for Christians, compared with 71 percent who said the same for Jews; 67 percent for Mormons and 61 percent for Muslims.

Since the difference between 82 percent and 61 percent is only 21 points; and since a majority of all Americans said it was very or extremely important to uphold religious freedom for all the religions mentioned: that is good news.

Also those polled were asked about protecting religious freedom, in the shadow of recent Islamic extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. In a few months, if there are no more such incidents, things might look better.

But the bad news comes when you look at American’s political loyalties in the survey: 88 percent of Republicans said it was important to protect the religious liberty of Christians, while only 60 percent said so for Muslims, a 28 point difference.

Democrats however, were slightly less concerned about religious freedom for Christians and slightly more concerned about protecting religious freedom for Muslims. Eighty-three percent of Democrats said religious freedom protections were important for Christians, while only 67 percent said the same about Muslims, only a 16 point difference.

Thus, the gap between the two parties is large and growing. Also, although both Jews and Mormons are minorities; Jews, who are mostly Democrats, are much more favorable to protecting the religious rights of Muslims than Mormons, who are mostly Republicans.

Perhaps our religious and political leaders should constantly repeat the lesson of the German Protestant theologian Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group:

First they came for Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak out for me.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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