US Muslims Must Have Same Religious Freedoms As Christians, Say Evangelical Leaders

Prominent evangelical leaders are backing religious freedoms for Muslims and other faiths as well as Christianity after a poll highlighted few Americans back civil liberties for Islam.

A 2015 survey from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found the vast majority of US citizens backed freedom of religion for various groups.

But it also highlighted that 'while 82 per cent of Americans say it is very or extremely important that Christians are allowed to practise their religion freely in the United States, just 61 per cent say the same about protecting religious freedom for Muslims'.

Just 61 per cent of Americans thought Muslims should be protected by religious freedomsReuters

The report adds: 'Another 80 per cent of Americans say it is very or extremely important for people like them to be able to practise their religion freely, 72 per cent say it is important to protect the religious freedoms of Jews, and 67 percent say it is important to protect the religious freedoms of Mormons.'

In response to the findings the National Association of Evangelicals held its own survey and found church leaders unanimously supported the 'same religious freedom protection for people of non-Christian faiths as for Christians'.

The January 2017 evangelical leaders survey found 100 per cent of respondents agreed the same liberties should apply to non-Christians as to Christians.

'Evangelical leaders believe religious freedom is a basic human right for all people, and that protecting the religious freedom for people of other faiths is protecting their own freedom,' said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

'Supporting religious freedom for all does not mean we endorse other religions, but we recognise that our government should protect its people's ability to choose and practise their religious faith.'

President of Wheaton College, Philip Ryken, agreed. 'The freedom to practise any religion — or no religion at all — is basic to religious liberty. When Christians advocate for religious liberty, we are not seeking a special privilege for Christians, but promoting a basic human right for all people,' he said.

William Bohline, founding pastor of Hosanna! Lutheran Church, added: 'If religious freedom is not extended to other religions, then it is simply "Christian freedom", a narrow and exclusive "freedom" which is not freedom at all.'

Steve Moore, president of nexleader, said: 'How could we ask Muslim countries to grant freedom of religion to Jesus-followers in their country if we don't grant it for all religions in the United States?'

The monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals includes the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a wide range of evangelical organisations including missions groups, Christian universities, publishers and churches. It is not a representative sample of all evangelical leaders. The sample size was not reported.