Center for American Progress

RELEASE: A Progressive Vision of Religious Liberty Restores Balance and Inclusion, Says New CAP Report
Press Release

RELEASE: A Progressive Vision of Religious Liberty Restores Balance and Inclusion, Says New CAP Report

Washington, D.C. — Religious liberty is a core value that belongs to all Americans. Yet, in 2016, some conservatives continue to misuse the concept of religious liberty to impose regressive restrictions on reproductive health care access, LGBT civil rights, and more. At the same time, fearmongering, discriminatory rhetoric has gained traction among Americans resistant to religious diversity and tolerance. Taken together, such extreme efforts and rhetoric illustrate a version of religious liberty that allows certain religious beliefs to trump the rights of others, cause harm, and allow one group to impose their religion on another—bearing little resemblance to the liberty our country’s founders intended.

Americans who are committed to true religious freedom should resist dangerous, overly broad interpretations of religious liberty. Today, a new report by the Center for American Progress outlines a progressive understanding of religious liberty that restores balance and inclusion for religious and nonreligious Americans alike. The report also offers four recommendations to lawmakers, candidates, advocates, and stakeholders to advance progressive religious liberty in 2016 and beyond.

“As a diverse, pluralistic society, we cannot and must not allow extreme conservatives to have a monopoly when it comes to defining religious liberty in America,” said Carolyn Davis, Senior Policy Analyst for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress and an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church. “A progressive understanding of religious liberty is more than counter-message. It is an effort to celebrate our fundamental freedoms while ensuring that all Americans are protected from undue harm or the burden of imposition of another’s religious beliefs.”

Successfully advancing progressive health care laws, nondiscrimination policies, and religious tolerance depends upon restoring a progressive interpretation of religious liberty that balances core American values and the government’s compelling interest in protecting others from harm or the burden of other’s religious beliefs.

To that end, the Center for American Progress recommends that progressive leaders, lawmakers, and advocates include progressive religious liberty in issues advocacy; demonstrate that religious liberty has an intersectional impact on vulnerable communities; frame anti-Muslim bigotry as a religious liberty issue; and fight overly broad religious exemptions and advance a progressive vision of religious liberty.

Read the report: “Advancing Progressive Religious Liberty in 2016” by Carolyn Davis

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For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at or 202.478.5328.