Most Americans support religious rights, health care exemptions

Carl Anderson Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus CNA US Catholic News 5 16 11 Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

A new survey found that the majority of Americans support religious rights whenever they are in conflict with other laws, as well as the right to opt out of providing drugs, services and procedures for religious reasons.

The Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, found that nearly three in four Americans, 74 to 26 percent, say that freedom of religion should be protected, even if it conflicts with other laws. Most Americans would also protect the First Amendment conscience rights of hospitals, health care workers and insurers.

“This survey reveals that the American people are fundamentally dedicated to protecting the First Amendment conscience rights of everyone,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson.

“Allowing people to opt out of these procedures or services which violate their faith is the right thing to do. It is also key to protecting the First Amendment rights of all Americans and enjoys strong public support as well.”

The poll was released on May 22, a day after 43 dioceses and Catholic organizations around the country filed lawsuits in 12 different places to protect their First Amendment rights from the government’s health care mandate.

The survey also found that when asked about specific health care policies in relation to the First Amendment, strong majorities – 58 to 38 percent – would let individual health care providers and organizations opt out of providing abortion and abortion-inducing drugs (51 to 44 percent).

Analysis also showed that Americans believe health care providers should be allowed to opt out of providing in-vitro fertilization treatments that could result in the death of an embryo – 52 to 41 percent – and birth control pills, 51 to 46 percent. Those polled, 55 to 41 percent, also said medical organizations should be permitted to refuse to medication to speed the death of a terminally ill patient.

According to the pollsters, “the number supporting the right to opt out of providing birth control is particularly interesting given the fact that more than almost 9 in 10 Americans (88 percent) believe contraception is morally acceptable.”

Overall, the survey found that half – 50 percent – of Americans have heard of the debate over the government’s health care mandate. The mandate, announced by the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, requires employers – including organizations that are religiously affiliated – to provide free insurance coverage to women for services including sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and birth control.

The poll also showed that majority of Americans, 52 to 31 percent, believe that laws in the United States have made it more difficult to follow one’s religious beliefs in recent years. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans, 88 percent, also agree that religious leaders should speak out on issues of religious freedom.

Also, an overwhelming majority of Americans, 72 to 27 percent, said that forcing health care workers and doctors to provide abortion – when they object for religious reasons – is morally wrong.

Majorities also said that abortion, 58 to 40 percent, and same-sex marriage, 52 to 45 percent, were morally wrong.

The Knights of Columbus-Marist poll surveyed 1,606 adults from May 10 through May 14 of this year. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the continental United States were interviewed by telephone with live interviewers. Numbers were selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation.

The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. To increase coverage, this land-line sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers. The two samples were then combined. The results' margin of error fell within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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