Washington, D.C. — As in the rest of the United States, a commitment to religious liberty in Michigan must respect the rights of all Americans to freely express their religious and spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof. Today, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief that details the challenges to real religious freedom posed by overly broad and discriminatory versions of religious liberty in Michigan, as well as by rising anti-Muslim bigotry. The issue brief also offers recommendations to Michigan lawmakers, candidates, advocates, and stakeholders to advance progressive religious liberty in 2016 and beyond.
Despite Michigan’s rich religious diversity—including significantly high numbers of Catholics, evangelicals, and Muslims, as well as Michigan residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated—some extremely conservative state lawmakers are attempting to enshrine discrimination and religious beliefs into state law. These so-called religious liberty laws seek to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care and justify discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender—or LGBT—Michigan residents. At the same time, fearmongering anti-Muslim bigotry appears to be gaining traction among Americans resistant to religious diversity and tolerance, threatening the right of Muslims to believe and worship freely in Michigan and across the United States.
“Religious liberty is a cherished American value that should never be used to cause harm or limit the freedoms of others,” 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. “In Michigan and beyond, progressives must affirm a balanced approach to religious liberty that ensures the rights of LGBT Americans, women, and religious minorities.”
In order to create an economically prosperous, healthy, and equitable Michigan, the state must strike a proper balance between true religious freedom and other cherished rights and freedoms that keep American democracy strong. Successfully advancing progressive health care laws, nondiscrimination policies, and religious tolerance depends on restoring a progressive interpretation of religious liberty that maintains the balance between that core American value and the government’s compelling interest in protecting people from harm or from the burden of others’ religious beliefs.
To that end, the Center for American Progress recommends that progressive leaders, lawmakers, and advocates in Michigan—and across the country—include progressive religious liberty in issue advocacy; demonstrate that religious liberty has an intersectional effect on vulnerable communities; frame anti-Muslim bigotry as a religious liberty issue; and fight overly broad religious exemptions to better serve Michigan constituents.
In March, the Center for American Progress issued a national report outlining a progressive understanding of religious liberty that restores balance and inclusion for religious and nonreligious Americans alike.
Read the issue brief here: “Addressing Challenges to Progressive Religious Liberty in Michigan.”
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.5328.