Religious Americans feel their faith is less accepted by society than in previous years, a new survey by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty found.
According to Becket, “the greatest change in perceived feelings of acceptance is among Christians.” However, consistent with previous years’ studies, religious non-Christians report significantly lower levels of perceived acceptance, 8% lower than people of faith as a whole and 12% lower than non-Catholic Christians.
Only half of people of faith in the U.S. feel their faith is “completely” accepted or accepted “a good amount,” according to Becket’s new 2023 Religious Freedom Index, which was shared exclusively with CNA.
Becket released its full index, which tracks American public opinion on First Amendment rights, on Jan. 16.
The new number denotes a 5% decline in religious Americans’ feelings of acceptance from Becket’s 2022 findings.
Overall, only 21% of all people of faith in America said that they felt their faith was “completely” accepted, while 16% said they felt their faith was only accepted “a small amount” or “not at all.”
Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, told CNA that “the decline in feelings of acceptance among religious Americans should motivate us to continue working to defend faith in the public square.”
“When religious people and institutions are free to exercise their beliefs in society,” she continued, “it makes for a more welcoming culture. That’s particularly important for young women of faith, who feel less accepted than any other group of religious Americans.”
As noted by Windham, Becket’s study found that young women of faith between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to report only feeling moderate or low acceptance in society. The study also said that 18- to 24-year-old women are also less likely to report being religious than women in other age groups and men their age.
Also notable, Catholics registered as the most likely to feel their faith is accepted in society, with 56% of Catholics responding that they feel their faith is either “completely” accepted or accepted “a good amount.”
The decline in overall feelings of acceptance came mostly from non-Catholic Christians, 54% of whom said they felt either completely accepted or accepted a good amount, which is down from 59% in 2022.
Becket releases its Religious Freedom Index annually. This year, the index was developed from data gathered from Sept. 28–Oct. 5, 2023, from a nationally representative sample size of 1,000 participants 18 years old and older.