Almost half of US states discriminate on grounds of religion or belief, finds new report

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 17 January 2020

American Atheists has released the 2019 State of the Secular States report. By assessing more than 40 categories of statewide laws and policy measures affecting religious equality in all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, this study represents the most comprehensive analysis on the subject.

The 2019 State of the Secular States report classifies US states into three categories according to how well they protect freedom of religion or belief. Only ten states, including CaliforniaNew Jersey, and Nevada, were assessed as having strong protections, such as constitutional guarantees for religious freedom, protections against religious harm, and few religious exemptions.

American Atheists’ report is being released as Christian Nationalists continue to pour resources into Project Blitz, a concerted legislative campaign to weaponize religion and undermine equality in state capitals across the country. In 2019, 10 Project Blitz-related bills were signed into law.

Nick Fish, President of American Atheists

Nick Fish, President of American Atheists commented:

“American politicians like to imagine that the United States is the leader on religious freedom issues and equality. While it’s true that our Constitution protects the right to believe or not as our conscience may dictate, our government still gives special treatment to religion which undermines the health and safety of women, LGBTQ people, youth, and elevates religious dogma above equality under the law.

“Millions of Americans are at risk of being denied healthcare because of the religious beliefs of their doctors. Children go unvaccinated and are forced to endure abuse masquerading as ‘faith healing’ because of religious exemptions. And almost 500,000 children await adoption while states make it easier for taxpayer-funded agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples or parents of the ‘wrong’ religion.

“This report shows that our nation has work to do before we can claim to truly protect religious freedom and equality.”

Humanists International Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey

Humanists International director of advocacy, Dr Elizabeth O’Casey welcomed the report;

“This is an excellent report which shows the extent of discrimination within US states on the grounds of religion or belief. These findings will come as a surprise to many as they are in stark opposition to many of the US federal guarantees of political secularism.

“Humanists International has already raised concerns about the increasing use of so-called ‘religious freedom’ as a tool to undermine the rights of women – particularly in the area of sexual and reproductive rights – of LGBTI people, and those belonging to faith and belief minorities. We will continue to work with our members in the United States to push for an inclusive and accurate understanding of the right to freedom of religion or belief and to ensure that the right to non-discrimination is protected for all, whatever their belief, gender or sexual orientation.

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