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A new study reveals which US states are the worst religious freedom protectors

A new study from a religious liberty nonprofit highlights which states have the highest and the lowest level of religious freedom protections for faith-based nonprofits at a time when many religious beliefs are increasingly scrutinized under state laws and regulations.


The Washington, D.C.-based Napa Legal, which exists to educate religious nonprofit leaders on corporate and legal issues, has released its first annual Faith and Freedom Index, which ranks the 50 states by their level of hospitality for faith-based nonprofits.

The index gives states an overall score and individual scores based on religious freedom and regulatory freedom. A state’s religious freedom score considers “key issues related to a nonprofit’s freedom to pursue its mission in accordance with its sincerely-held beliefs.”

Napa Legal Executive Director Mary Margaret Beecher said in a statement Wednesday that “faith-based nonprofits face threats to their religious freedom and the often-crushing weight of regulatory burdens.”

Factors determining a state’s religious freedom score include the presence or absence of a “state constitutional protection of free exercise,” “state Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” “religious freedom for nonprofits with public programming,” “religious freedom for faith-based employers,” “protections for religious liberty in [a] state of emergency” and a “Blaine Amendment” that restricts the ability of faith-based organizations to participate in public benefit programs.

Nevada and Maryland ranked the lowest when it comes to religious freedom, receiving respective scores of 18% and 20%. Napa Legal described the two states as possessing “only weak and ambiguous protections for faith-based nonprofits’ religious freedom.”


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