Most Americans oppose faith-based refusal of service

February 25, 2014, 7:41 PM GMT+0

Most Americans oppose state laws allowing business owners to refuse service to people who violate their religious beliefs, but a majority of Republicans support them.

This week a bill which would legally protect business owners who choose not to serve customers for religious reasons came before the Arizona state legislature. Many opponents of the bill have argued that it targets gay people in the state and would allow business owners who don't wish to serve gays to claim a religious objection to homosexuality. Supporters of the bill say that it protects religious freedom, and is simply updating the current "exercise of religion" law in place already.

According to the latest YouGov research, just over half of all Americans (51%) oppose state laws that would allow business owners to refuse service to people who violate their personal religious beliefs. However, there is a deep partisan divide on this issue, as Democrats (73%) are overwhelmingly opposed to such laws, while a majority of Republicans (57%) support them.

Interestingly, Republicans are more supportive of the laws than either self-described Protestants (43%) or Catholics (37%), even though the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations officially disapprove of homosexual acts or (in some cases) condemn them as sinful.

When asked about discrimination in a broader sense, results were less divided. The majority of Americans (60%) support a federal law prohibiting business owners from discriminating against customers based on race, color, religion or national origin, including 50% of Republicans. Nearly a third (31%) oppose such a law.

The Arizona bill passed through the state's legislature this past Tuesday, and Republican Governor Jan Brewer has ten days to sign or veto it, though she says she will not rush into a decision. The Kansas Legislature passed a similar bill earlier this month, and versions of similar legislation are moving through state legislatures in Missouri and Georgia.

Full poll results can be found here.

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