A large majority of Americans believe parents should have the final say over what their children learn in public schools as the national debate over the role of parents in public education and the subject matter taught to students continues.
The Becket Fund for Religious Freedom published its third annual Religious Freedom Index this week, which is based on responses from 1,000 Americans to questions about their views on religious freedom. Respondents’ responses to 21 questions were used to compile a “Religious Freedom Index” measuring support for religious freedom in the United States. The Religious Freedom Index peaked at 68 this year, down from 67 in 2019 and 66 last year.
As part of the survey, respondents were asked to give their opinion on the subject of education, particularly whether parents or school districts should have the final say on the curriculum taught in public education. Sixty-three percent of those polled believed that “parents should have the last word … and should be able to refuse morally objectionable or inappropriate content”, while 37% believed that “public schools should have the final say … and parents should not be able to refuse morally objectionable or inappropriate content.
The education question comes as concerned parents have taken to school board meetings nationwide to voice their opposition to teaching critical race theory and sexually explicit material in schools. The issue of education played a major role in Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election, which Republican Glenn Youngkin ultimately won.
In a debate with Youngkin, Democrat Terry McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should tell schools what to teach. In recent weeks, the United States Department of Justice has faced a major setback for comparing concerned parents to domestic terrorists.
Questions about education extended to higher education and the role of religious organizations, discussions and diversity on public college campuses. Support for allowing religious student groups “to have a place on public college campuses, just like other student organizations,” was measured at 63%, while religious groups “choose leaders who adhere to the teachings. of their faith ”were recorded at 60%.
Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they agreed that “public universities should strive to ensure philosophical and religious diversity on campus among students and faculty.”
The investigation also asked questions about the coronavirus pandemic. A majority of respondents (52%) agreed that religious services should be considered essential during a pandemic, compared to 48% who thought they should be considered non-essential. However, the majority of Americans believed that other religious ceremonies (52%), community services (54%), and weddings (57%) taking place in places of worship should be considered non-essential.
A plurality of respondents (47%) agreed with the statement proclaiming that “companies should not force their employees to take a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the employee’s religious beliefs.” Thirty-one percent said they disagree, while 22% neither agree nor disagree. At the same time, 48% of those polled believed that vaccination warrants which allow “exceptions based on medical, personal or philosophical reasons … should also allow exceptions for religious reasons”.
In 2021, 71% of those polled agreed that “religious organizations should be just as eligible to receive government funds as non-religious organizations,” an increase from the 65% who said the same in 2020. In 2021 , a majority of Americans (56%) believed that religious schools should have equal access to state financial aid to private schools like their secular counterparts.
A further 25% thought religious schools should only have equal access if they refrain from engaging in religious activities, while 19% said religious schools should be excluded from such programs.
When asked if they agreed with a statement that “people with religiously-based opinions in discussions of controversial matters should be free to express them in public”, 30% of those polled strongly agreed, 32% somewhat agree, 6% said they somewhat disagreed, while 9% said they strongly disagreed. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed believed that individuals should have the ability to “express or share their religious beliefs with others,” and 75% said that individuals should have the right to “preach the religion. doctrine of their faith in others ”.
When asked if “professors at public universities should have the freedom to share their religious beliefs on controversial issues inside and outside the classroom,” 44% said they should. have the option to do so, while 28% disagreed. Public opinion was much more divided on whether professors at public universities should be able to “share their religious beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity inside and outside of the workplace. the classroom “. Thirty-five percent thought professors shouldn’t be able to do this, while 34% said the opposite.
The survey also included questions on religious pluralism, asking respondents “about how different belief systems and practices can exist simultaneously in society.” An overwhelming majority of respondents (90%) supported “the freedom for people to choose a religion, if they wish”, while 10% opposed it.
“The freedom to practice a religion in daily life without suffering discrimination or harm from others” received the support of 88% of the respondents and the opposition of 12%. Other ideas widely supported by those interviewed included “freedom to pray or worship without fear of persecution” (82%), “tolerance and respect for a wide range of ideas and beliefs about God ”(86%) and“ the freedom to practice one’s religion beliefs even if they are contrary to accepted majority practices ”(82%).
Seventy-six percent of those surveyed accepted and supported the idea that people should be given the opportunity to “run their business or private organizations according to their religious beliefs.” Seventy-one percent of those surveyed accepted and supported the idea that people should be “free to believe that certain behaviors and activities are immoral and should be avoided in our society”. Examples of such behavior included same-sex marriage, adultery, abortion, and pornography.
Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed agreed that people should be able to believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman without fear of facing “discrimination, penalties or fines from the law. government “.
Giving religious groups and organizations the freedom to make employment and hiring decisions without government interference and to discuss political matters and support or oppose political candidates has received support from 69% and 70%, respectively.
However, support for enabling hospitals and health systems run by religious organizations “to establish policies and standards that reflect the religious beliefs of the organization” was only supported by 44% of respondents. In contrast, 68% of respondents believe that “health systems and practitioners should respect the religious beliefs of patients”. Of healthcare workers with religious objections to abortion, 75% supported the right of such workers not to participate in abortion procedures.
When asked about the influence of religion in society, 61% of those surveyed saw religion as “part of the solution” to “the problems and what is happening in our country today”. People of faith were seen as a solution by 64% of those surveyed.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said they had at least a “good amount” of acceptance towards “people of faith by supporting their ability to believe and live according to their beliefs,” and 54% expressed at least a “good amount” of accepting “the contributions that religion and believers make to our country and to our society”.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for the Christian Post. He can be contacted at: [email protected]