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US religious liberty index ranks all states; data surprises

Religious Freedom

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J-P Mauro - published on 01/03/24

While religious liberty is often thought of as a partisan issue, some blue states found themselves atop the list, while some red states floundered.
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A new ranking of religious liberty in the US, broken down by state, has shown some surprising results. South Carolina in particular rose from #38 in a previous report, to #2 in 2023, while Texas, a state where the GOP is said to prize religious liberty, only landed at #42. The data was accumulated and the states were each ranked by The Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy (CRCD) from the First Liberty Institute.

The CRCD’s ranking of the rates of religious liberty by state comes as part of its second annual “Religious Liberty in the States Index.” The index ranks all 50 states from best to worst on the issue of defending the religious liberty of its citizens. The rankings were decided on by a 14-category analysis of each state’s laws and regulations concerning religious practice.

The top 10 states in the index released in 2023, from 1-10, were: Illinois, South Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Mississippi, Washington, Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the states in the bottom 10, from 50-41, were: West Virginia, New Hampshire, California, Vermont, New York, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming, Texas, and Colorado.

Religious liberty, as Religion Unplugged pointed out, is often viewed as an extremely partisan issue, with the political-right placing it high on their agenda, while the political-left often views religious liberty as an excuse for discriminatory practices. The index, however, has challenged this assumption, showing the traditionally blue-leaning Illinois at the #1 spot, while the traditionally red-leaning West Virginia was last at #50. 

Trey Dimsdale, executive director of CRCD, commented that the results surprised him, especially that Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington were among the top 10, but he was equally surprised that a state like Texas scored so low. He went on to express his lack of surprise that Utah would land at #11 and he praised South Carolina for jumping from #38 to #2, a move he credited to the recently passed general conscience provision for healthcare

See the full breakdown of the Religious Liberty in the States Index, with a color coded map, at Religious Liberty in the United States.

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