Religious Liberty Cherished, Not Understood

Although a clear majority of Americans cherish their religious liberties, too many of them don't recognize the importance of keeping government and religion separate, according to a new poll from a Virginia-based nonprofit.

The survey, released today by the Council for America's First Freedom (CAFF), finds that 52 percent of respondents ranked religious freedom above other fundamental rights, such as freedom of the press and the right to assemble.

More than 80 percent of the respondents said they would not support a national religion and 84 percent said that religious liberty is as important or more so than when the right was first established in the late 1700s. Furthermore, 59 percent told the CAFF pollsters that it is important to understand other religions.

The same survey, unfortunately, reveals that a large number of Americans do not believe keeping religion and government separate is necessary to ensure religious liberty for all and are not aware of where their fundamental right to religious freedom emanates from.

Almost half, 49 percent, said that there is either no need for maintaining church-state separation or that the doctrine should be less strictly interpreted. More than half, 53 percent, did not know that the Constitution ensures religious liberty. Forty-seven percent correctly answered that the First Amendment protected religious liberty for Americans, while 32 percent pointed to the Declaration of Independence and 9 percent said the source was the Ten Commandments.

Clearly, church-state separationists have a sizeable educational task ahead of them.