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Clergy: Religious Freedom is Less Valued in the US

Three-quarters of faith leaders in the US believe that religious freedom is less valued in the country, according to a recent study.

The Barna Group released its four-year study on religious freedom in America and the results shed light on how the US clergy see their roles in the ever changing society. The Christian polling firm conducted the survey to 1,608 clergy in 2014, 513 Protestant pastors in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, and 601 Protestant pastors in the U.S. in 2017.

The pressure for leaders and especially faith leaders to satisfy everyone on all sides, and to avoid offense, is very real today, especially in the digital era. —Roxanne Stone, Barna Group’s editor in chief

In the report, Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture, two out of five American adults (43%) said religious freedom in the country is worse compared to ten years ago, while 44% said religious liberty and other types of freedom “will be at risk in the coming decade.”

The study found that the majority of Christian leaders feel uncertain on how they will disciple believers around certain social and political issues in the country.

Nearly three out of 10 pastors (27%) claimed that they are having difficulty in preaching about moral and social issues such as sexuality, abortion and immigration. The respondents claimed that they frequently (11%) or occasionally (39%) feel hampered in their ability to speak out on certain topics because people will take offense.

The US clergy may have reservations about the future of religious freedom in America, but 68% of them believe that “clergy members have a uniquely important role to play when it comes to preserving religious freedom in the US.”

Roxanne Stone, Barna’s editor in chief, said, “The pressure for leaders and especially faith leaders to satisfy everyone on all sides, and to avoid offense, is very real today, especially in the digital era.”

She added that, “As the research reveals, the issues pastors feel most pressured to speak out on are the same ones they feel limited to talk about. In other words, the squeeze comes from all sides: those demanding that the church take a stand and those outraged when it does.”

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