[Despite what ChurchMilitant and LifeSiteNews report about a recent poll to the contrary]

Bill Donohue comments on surveys that probe support for religious liberty:

A new Pew Research Center survey on religious liberty found that the public is split on the question of whether businesses that provide wedding services should be able to refuse same-sex couples if the owner has religious objections: 48% are in agreement and 49% are not. Catholics believe, by a margin of 54% to 43%, that businesses should be required to provide services to gay couples.

Other surveys provide a different outcome. Does this mean the Pew survey is flawed? No. It means that the wording of the question strongly influences the respondent’s answer. What also matters is whether self-identification is an accurate measure of reality.

For example, last December an AP and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey found that 82% of Americans said religious liberty protections were important to Christians. Similarly, 8 in 10 Americans said that it was very or extremely important for people like themselves to be allowed to practice their religion freely.

So when Americans are asked about their support for religious liberty in general—when there is no competing value they are asked to weigh—their commitment shines through. But in the real world, there is usually a conflict between rights.

Last fall, the Catholic League commissioned Kellyanne Conway of The Polling Company to survey Catholics on a range of issues, one of them being religious liberty. Catholics were asked, “Do you agree or disagree that private businesses with religious objections should be forced to provide services that violate their beliefs?” By a margin of 63% to 30%, they opposed compelling private businesses to provide services that violate their religious beliefs.

What about when the question is narrowed to wedding-related businesses? It makes no difference: 62% say it is mostly unfair and 29% say it is fair.

How can these differences be explained? Americans prize religious liberty but they also support equal treatment. When these values conflict, much depends on whether the respondent is being asked to defend government coercion or support equal treatment: the former is not popular, but the latter is.

In the Catholic League survey, we disaggregated on the basis of several criteria, among them being ideology. For example, when respondents were asked about whether businesses should be required to provide health coverage that violates their religious beliefs, Catholics in general took the side of the owner. There was one segment that favored coercion: they were identified as being the most liberal Catholics in the sample.

We know from other surveys that the most liberal Catholics are also the most likely to be non-practicing. Yet the Pew survey treated them as equals—no attempt was made to distinguish them from others. Therefore, it is likely that if non-practicing Catholics were factored out of the Pew survey, Catholics would appear less liberal on this issue.

Should non-practicing Catholics be included in samples of the Catholic population? Should Americans who identify themselves as vegetarian be included in a survey of vegetarians even if they occasionally eat steaks or hot dogs? It depends on whether self-identification is seen as a satisfactory measure of reality. To put it another way, if a man has male genitals, is he a woman because he says he is?

Postmodern sages who think truth is a myth are entitled to live in their world of make believe, but they are not entitled to our respect. Reality may be interpreted differently, but not all interpretations are equally valid.

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  1. Küng Fu: Modernism the Legend Continues

    Master Po: What is troubling you, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: Master, why would someone identify as a vegetarian if they occasionally eat hot dogs and steaks?

    Master Po: Strange are the ways of modern progressive virtue signaling, are they not, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: Yes, I am very troubled, Master. I almost feel like I want to call NPR to complain.

    Robin: Gosh, Batman, can you be a vegetarian if you eat hog dogs and steaks occasionally?

    Batman I don’t think so, Robin. It would be a violation of the International Vegetarians Rulebook.

    Kwai Chang: But, Master, must I still race Jeff Spicoli in a Tortoise and Hare race between St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare?

    Master Po: Yes, I am afraid so, Grasshopper.

    Kwai Chang: While carrying Edmund Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology and being asked our Enneagram numbers by Father Mulcahy?

    Tom Wolfe: The purpose of having Father Mulcahy ask Kwai Chang and Jeff Spicoli about their Enneagram numbers is to give the Tortoise and Hare race an authentic post-conciliar modernist feel.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: He has a point. There is a member of our Jesuit community at Fordham on the faculty who has done an extensive study of the Enneagram.

    Bob Dylan: Father Mulcahy will ask Grasshopper and Spicoli if they know what their Enneagram numbers are to give the Tortoise and Hare race an authentic post-conciliar modernist feel. When they get the authentic post-conciliar modernist feel and get their chakras aligned correctly, everything we will be cool and they can slide right out of the cycle of karma and samsara.

    Hans Küng: I would like to address that…

    Ed Sullivan: Ask Ringo if he knows what his Enneagram number is.

    Bob Dylan: Yo, Ringo! The man wants to know your Enneagram number, man!

  2. Lisa: How long do we have to stay here squatting and meditating anyway?

    Richard Gere: The quest for Nirvana and breaking free from the cycle of karma can take a long time, Lisa.

    Ed Sullivan: Ask Lisa Simpson if she knows her Enneagram number.

    Kwai Chang: Will this race be difficult, Master?

    Master Po: We can raise the level of difficulty by having you and Spicoli pat your heads with one hand, while rubbing your tummy with the other and chewing gum at the same time.

    Robin: Can he do that, Batman?

    Batman: It’s his race, Robin. An Oriental spiritual master can be an emperor in his own temple.

    Catwoman: Batman, I’ve been wondering about something…

    Batman: Yes, what is it, Catwoman?

    Catwoman: Do you think we could practice those exercises in neo-Kantian epistemology that would help to understand progressive modernism tonight?

    Batman: Well, I was planning to help Robin with his Latin homework tonight, but perhaps….

    Batman: Robin, we’ll have to work on your Latin homework tomorrow night. Something has come up and, well, I’ll be busy this evening…

    Robin: It must be something serious if you’re skipping out on Saturday night Latin homework. What is it, an emergency crime fighters’ meeting?

    Batman: Yes, something like that.

  3. Allen Ginsberg: It might be useful if we reviewed the theology of the Sgt. Pepper album…

    Bob Dylan: Alright, man. Whatever you say…

    Dr. Jung: Yes. Let us investigate this theology.

    Ginsberg: Of course, this will go back to John Lennon’s experiences as an orphan as a child…and lead up to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”…

    Robin: Which we know is street code for…

    Lisa: If we stay squatting here and meditating long enough we’ll achieve Nirvana and break out of the cycle of karma?

    Richard Gere: That’s the theory, Lisa.

    Boris Badenov: But while these bourgeois nogoodnik jokers are dozing under the spell of this hypnotism…

    Natasha Fatale: They will never guess that we are secretly plotting to take over the world!

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