At a time when U.S. President Donald Trump's executive orders limiting entry to the United States by citizens of a number of predominantly Muslim countries has been at the center of major debate in the United States, a recent study shines interesting light on American perceptions of discrimination of Muslims actually living in the country. Unlike the U.S. population in general, American Evangelical Christians are outliers, it turns out, in believing that Christians are more likely to face discrimination than Muslims in the United States.
As highlighted in an article posted on Atlantic magazine's website on Friday, a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute asked Americans about their impressions of discrimination in the United States, focusing on Christians and Muslims. The poll did not question respondents about discrimination against Jews.
"Overall, people were twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination as they were to say the same thing about Christians," the Atlantic article noted, referring to Americans in general, and "white Catholics and white mainline Protestants were both in line with the American average: Each group was roughly twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination compared to how they see the Christian experience."
But Evangelical Protestant Christians stand out for starkly different views, with 57 percent staying saying that Christians facing a lot of discrimination in the United States compared to 44 percent who thought that Muslims do. "They were the only religious group more likely to believe Christians face discrimination compared to Muslims," the Atlantic article by staff writer Emma Green noted.
As recently as October, just before the American presidential election, 56 percent of Evangelicals said Muslims face a lot of discrimination, but by February, the figure had dropped by 12 percentage points. "It’s possible that this finding is an anomaly—the sample size of white evangelicals in the February poll was smaller than in previous surveys—but it suggests a dramatic shift," the Atlantic suggested.
But the article also acknowledges that discrimination is difficult to quantify and that Evangelical Christians have felt under siege over issues such as the 2015 gay marriage, which was legalized in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
"That decision kicked off a wave of new challenges around religious conservatives’ right not to participate in gay wedding ceremonies, among other issues. Around the country, these cases are largely being resolved not in favor of religious plaintiffs," the article noted. "The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled against a Christian florist who did not want to provide services at a gay couple’s wedding, for example."