Many American evangelicals welcomed President Donald Trump’s draft executive order to strengthen religious exemptions in federal laws and programs, even though it would have fallen short of protecting Christian business owners like bakers, florists, and photographers.
Stoking their increasing concerns: high-profile lawsuits filed against those who refuse to provide their services for same-sex weddings; the Obamacare requirement of institutions to provide contraception coverage; and proposed legislation in California that all schools must obey anti-discrimination regulations or lose funding.
International Christian Concern even included the United States in its religious freedom Hall of Shame list for the first time in 2016, citing “constant attacks in the media” and believers being “marginalized through the law.”
Should the US be included on such lists? Here’s how experts weighed in.
Answers are arranged on a spectrum from “yes” answers at the top to “no” answers at the bottom.
“Persecution in the US isn’t comparable to overseas. Yet there have been too many Christians fired or sued, and too many negative court cases and laws, to miss a clear trend. Most governments don’t publicly declare their hostility toward religion; they use laws like zoning or employment to push it out of the public square. Religious freedom in the US is being pushed toward private expression.”
~Jeff King, president, International Christian Concern
“Every country, including the US, should be included in global assessments of religious liberty or persecution of Christians. The US has only 4.4 percent of the world population, but 10 percent of all Christians. Yet it is highly unlikely that the US will soon be on any list of ‘most persecuted’ countries.”
~Todd Johnson, director, Center for the Study of Global Christianity
“The US displays worrying trends on religious freedom due to secular intolerance, which tries to eradicate religion from the public domain. However, if we scored the US with our questionnaire for the World Watch List, it would certainly not rank among the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian. The nature and intensity of persecution in those nations are at an entirely different level.”
~Frans Veerman, director, Open Doors World Watch Research Unit
“Every group has a standard for determining persecution against Christians. We also have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), country constitutions, New Testament writings, and history as guides. With the US, I avoid conflating any documented rise in cultural ‘anti-Christian’ hostility with the grave and repeated UDHR violations that define global ‘persecution.’ Yet we do well to remember that the US restricted the religious freedom of African slaves, and a measure of watchfulness is understandable.”
~K. A. Ellis, ambassador, International Christian Response
“We interviewed 600 believers in 72 countries, and their persecution was not over homosexuality or abortion. Believers are suffering because of evil’s response to their positive witness. Most Western Christians have divorced their witness from the marketplace. So we won’t know if there is real persecution in the US until we Christians stop whining about our rights as ‘temporary’ citizens, and return to a loving witness. Including the US among nations that actively oppose the presence of Jesus demeans those truly suffering for their faith.”
~Nik Ripken, global strategist, International Mission Board
“The US has numerous ministries that combat erosions of our Christian beliefs; all of them registered and unrestricted in their advocacy and fundraising. No churches have been closed by the government, no converts arrested, and no Christians killed for their faith. Reporting ‘persecution’ in the United States is an injustice to Christians overseas who suffer restrictions, persecution, and death on account of their beliefs.”
~Ann Buwalda, executive director, Jubilee Campaign USA
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.