(Centennial Fellow) Some 60% of Coloradans now feel their religious freedom is being threatened by the prevailing political and cultural forces in America over the past 20 years, according to a new survey done by the Centennial Institute.
These fears have intensified with recent events, including the federal government mandate for many religious organizations (who provide health insurance plans) to include contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization coverage for their employees. Hobby Lobby, a Christian-based arts and crafts company, faces a daily $1.2 million fine for non-compliance with the same requirement. Labor unions have been disproportionately granted Obamacare waivers arousing concerns about fairness and religious freedom in the minds of the American public.
The survey also asked whether economic and political rights, religious freedom, or tolerance was the most important value to Coloradans. Over 57% of those surveyed said religious freedom was the most important value, followed by tolerance (25%) and economic/political freedom (17%.) The survey indicated that 66% of Americans identified themselves as Christian (Protestant or Catholic) while 16% identified as "other", 15% of Americans have no religious preference, 2% were Muslims, and 1% were Jewish. Clearly, the issue of religious freedom is on most people’s minds today, irrespective of religious affiliation.
This is a surprising result given the current economic reality in the US where families with 2013 incomes in the top 20 percent of the nation will pay an average of 27.2 percent of their income in federal taxes, among the highest since 1979. In addition, total US debt has risen to over $16.5 trillion (up six trillion dollars in the past four years) while GDP growth has declined to approximately 2% annually. According to the Commerce Department, income tumbled 3.6 percent in January 2013, the largest drop since January 1993.
John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute, stated, "The unemployment rate has not declined since President Obama took office in January 2009 when it was 7.6%. Today it is 7.9%. Economic growth and opportunity have been muted for the past several years, yet despite the economic travails that Americans find themselves in, survey respondents are more concerned about religious freedom than they are about economic and political rights."
Survey results indicate that 44% of Coloradans believe that Islam is a religion of peace, consistent with other religion polling at the national level. The survey reveals that respondents are concerned about a perceived movement from freedom of religion to freedom of worship, where 56% of respondents believe this distinction, made by media and government officials, is an attempt to privatize religion and keep it out of the public square.
Christians should be concerned about these polling results as it reflects increasing concerns about religious freedom, America's first freedom. The movement from "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship" is an attempt to privatize religious expression and remove religion from the public square. As secular interests exert increasing control over the media, education, and government, the freedom of religious expression in the public square will be discouraged. This effort to privatize religious expression is a back-door effort to undermine the constitutional protections guaranteed by our founding fathers. History is replete with examples where strictures upon religious freedom ultimately get expressed through constraints on economic and political freedom.
Founder Benjamin Rush said "Without virtue, there can be no liberty." Samuel Adams, widely recognized as the father of the American revolution, said " “While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”
James Wilson, signer of the Constitution and U. S. Supreme Court Justice, said “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants."
George Washington said "Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.”
And Benjamin Franklin, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, summed it up: “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
It is clear that our founders intended the celebration and protection of religious freedom. Religious freedom is inseperable from political and economic freedom. These freedoms represent a cord of three strands, not easily broken when accompanying each other.
It is also clear that religious freedom is under assault, like never before, by established interests in the media, education, and government spheres. Challenges to economic and political freedom will not be far behind. These polling results done by the Centennial Institute should mobilize those who understand the times in which we live. Religious freedom is a concern to Americans of all religious persuasions.
John Adams said "But a constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. liberty, once lost, is lost forever." It is our individual responsibility to know and protect our constitutional rights.
The survey was conducted for the Centennial Institute by Smart Voice on January 28, 2013 using a statewide sample of 379 respondents who also subscribed to a landline phone.
(CCU Student) On February 10 2009, President Barack Obama’s approval rating peaked at a healthy 65.5%. The man seemed politically invulnerable with both houses under his party’s control and almost two out of three people in the country approving of the direction Obama was going to take the country. Throughout the course of 2009, Obama’s approval rating has been steadily declining and currently stands in most polls at around 50%. As the 2010-midterm elections approach, many political commentators are expecting a repeat of the 1994 election where the Republicans won major victories in both the House and the Senate, essentially a complete turnaround of the 2008 elections.
Surely, most everyone expects Obama’s approval rating to decline somewhat after the typical honeymoon period was over, but to the point where there is a realistic possibility of the Republicans who only a year ago were cast out of Washington would make a full recovery if not come out stronger then in 2008? What happened? The answer is in how Barack Obama has been conducting his administration. He has become a victim of his own successes and at the same time, extremely indecisive on many main issues. Whether or not one agrees with his policies, Barack Obama had resounding success in passing legislation, especially at the beginning of the year. In his first 100 days, he was able to pass a stimulus bill that, at the time, cost more than the entire Iraq war with little opposition. In April, America was projected to run budget deficits that ran around $1.4 trillion dollars and there with relatively little resistance to this major increase in spending. Barak Obama has also succeeded in passing a bill that would increase the amount of troops in Afghanistan by 30,000. Now he is working on an overhaul of the entire American healthcare system, not bad for a president who has only been in office for a year.
So why has his approval rating gone down? Obama has simply become a victim of his own success. He has been successful in everything he has put serious effort into, with the possible exception of his healthcare program (which still may pass but it has not been easy). Yet the problems of recession, Afghanistan, and many other issues seem to be just getting worse. Who are the American people going to blame other than the man who promised economic recovery and the withdrawal of troops from Middle East battlefields? Many Americans are irritated that the problems of America cannot be solved quickly. Above all, it seems Obama has frustrated almost everybody, people from every political faction. He frustrated those who voted for him by not solving the economic crisis quickly and by agreeing to the troop increase in Afghanistan, and to the left he has not done nearly enough to fulfill his massive agenda he entered the White House with (he still has yet to address the issues of environmental change, gay rights, the education system, and NAFTA). Economic conservatives feel that this out of control spending is going to hurt us in the long run and this ongoing healthcare battle is upsetting everyone. On top of all this, he has been indecisive on just about every major issue presented to him. Granted, Obama has only held office for a year, but the man who came into office with the intention of change has been somewhat hesitant on how this change is going to be accomplished. On the healthcare battle issue, Obama has said relatively little about the details of healthcare reform, but has been expending tremendous political capital in passing this bill that is currently held up in Congress. When the media asks him directly about public option, he seems to waver one day saying that the bill must have a public option, and the next day stating it is not a necessity. Same story with the situation in Afghanistan. To his credit, Obama eventually did commit the troops requested by his generals; however, it took him almost three months to come to this conclusion. The trend in his administration seems to consist of setting broad goals and, even if these goals are not met, coming up with some sort of legislation that merely represents change. Americans are starting to realize this and even people who traditionally vote Democratic are starting to get dissatisfied with his lack of resolve on issues (for example, the gay community, and Obama’s apparent lack of results for the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the armed forces and gay marriage.) Lastly, Americans are starting to get sick of hearing how every problem in America is a result of the Bush Administration actions rather than the policies passed by the Obama Administration. The wars in the Middle East, economic recession, global warming all are Bush’s fault. While there may be some legitimacy to these claims, people the public is getting fed up with hearing about how these problems are not Obama’s fault but Bush’s. The longer his administration is in power, the truer this will become. A 50% approval rating hardly indicates the fall of the Obama administration. However, the man who was seemingly politically unstoppable at the beginning of the year has been shown to be mortal. He has alienated both the left and the right by doing what seems to be everything wrong to the right and not enough action to the left.
Americans are also starting to realize that the man who promised to reform Washington is starting to become tired and indecisive while blaming the past administration for his problems. Whether or not the Republicans are triumphant in the 2010-midterm election only time will tell, but the fact that it is even a possibility shows how far Obama’s image has fallen.
Our temptation to prognosticate is nearly insatiable and our media-driven politics exacerbates this tendency. The reliability and value of these predictions is tenuous at best. Poll-driven politics is obsessed with “who’s ahead” and “who’s behind.” Rather than reflecting reasonable scholarship and knowledge, these projections are often either misguided guesses or wishful thinking on the part of a partisan media.
Following the election of President Obama and the increase in the Democrat majority control of both the House and Senate in 2008, numerous articles, television stories, pundits and op-ed pieces predicted that the country was headed towards increased Democratic control for the coming years. With this trend would be the requisite Republican Party decline, followed by years in the wilderness. This assessment concluded of course, that the country had made a significant shift in favor of liberal Democrat policies.
In the past few days, however, new polls have begun to show a resurgence of the Republican Party! The general favorability rating comparing the public’s confidence between Democrats and Republicans shows increasing dissatisfaction with the Democrats, accompanied by either steady ratings or slightly improving ratings for the Republicans. Reviewing specific polling data for both 2009 and 2010 elections, Republicans are leading in key gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia (both states carried by President Obama) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is trailing two potential Republican candidates in his re-election bid.
This recent shift in favorability ratings should not be interpreted as a definitive sign that the Republicans will realize a 1994-like resurgence, although it is certainly possible. Such a prediction at this time would be just as rash as that of those following the 2008 election who said that the Democrats would be in control for an extended period of time.
The United States has been in a fairly steady trend of divided government for the past 30+ years. More often than not, the public have elected the president from one party while favoring the other party with control of the legislature. In most of the elections cycles, either party has had a reasonable chance of electoral success. The events during the 2008 election, of course, were strongly stacked against the Republicans in favor the Democrats, but this was unique in our recent history.
This recent era is distinctive in American politics, for while we have always been a two party system, we have experienced long periods where one party was clearly dominant. For instance, form the 1860 election until the late 1920’s, the Republicans were unmistakably stronger than the Democrats, winning the White House, controlling the Congress, controlling a majority of state governments and leading in party registration. A similar trend existed favoring the Democrats from Roosevelt’s victory in 1932 through the mid-1960’s. Since that time, we have seen a public willing to support either party’s candidates, often willing to split their vote between the parties. Recent elections have been decided more often on individual candidates and/or salient issues during an election cycle.
While pundits seek to make bold predictions concerning polling trends, parties and candidates would be wise to temper their forecasts. Voter memory is short. Apparent trends in November of 2008 or in late August of 2009 may very well be worthless by the time the next election cycle rolls around.