A conservative and a liberal state rank first and second in a landmark new report that examines and ranks all 50 states according to their protections for religious liberty.
The report by the Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy (CRCD), an initiative of First Liberty Institute, rated the 50 states on 11 religious liberty “safeguards,” such as whether a state has adopted a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act and whether it has certain protections for religious employees within health care.
The results came with a few surprises, especially when examined through the lens of America’s politically polarized culture.
The right-leaning state of Mississippi ranked No. 1 with a score of 81.82, while the left-leaning state of Illinois ranked No. 2 (80.52). New Mexico ranked a distant third with a score of 60.82, followed closely by Florida (58.01). New York (15.58) ranked No. 50.
It was dubbed the “Religious Liberty in the States” report.
“The RLS index makes a significant and unique contribution to the field in a way that is rigorous, thorough and thoughtful,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute. “We are proud of this project and thankful for the hard work that has made it possible.”
Jordan J. Ballor, director of research at CRCD, said the report “provides very clear and concrete opportunities for states to improve their protections of religious liberty.”
“For every state, there are examples from other states – whether their neighbors or from different parts of the country – that can be adapted and used to address gaps in their safeguards of free exercise,” Ballor said.
Below are the rankings of all 50 states according to the Religious Liberty in the States report:
1. Mississippi; 2. Illinois; 3. New Mexico; 4. Florida; 5. Washington; 6. Utah; 7. Tennessee; 8. Maryland; 9. Idaho; 10. Kansas; 11. Connecticut; 12. Alabama; 12. Pennsylvania (tied); 14. Maine; 14. Missouri (tied); 16. Oklahoma; 16. Rhode Island (tied); 18. Massachusetts; 18. Minnesota; 18. South Dakota (tied); 21. Arizona; 22. Delaware; 23. Indiana; 24 Montana; 25. Texas; 26. Kentucky; 27. Arkansas; 27. Louisiana (tied); 29. Wyoming; 30. Alaska; 30. Hawaii; 30. Nebraska; 30. North Carolina; 30. Ohio; 30. Virginia (tied); 36. New Jersey; 37. North Dakota; 38. South Carolina; 39. Georgia; 39. Wisconsin (tied); 41. Colorado; 42. Nevada; 43. New Hampshire; 44 Michigan; 45. Vermont; 46. Iowa; 46. Oregon (tied); 48. California; 49. West Virginia; 50. New York.
Photo courtesy: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jantanee Rungpranomkorn
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.