Three quarters of U.S. clergy now believe religious freedom is becoming less valued in our country and two out of five adults polled – 43% – say Americans have less religious freedom than they did 10 years ago.
Appearing on the CBN News program The Global Lane, Barna president David Kinnaman said a vast majority of pastors feel they are often constrained or limited in the way they preach or teach in today's society.
"They actually feel pressured to not preach on certain topics or pressured to speak on topics that they are not ready to talk about," he explained.
And what are some of those topics?
Kinnaman said members of the clergy struggle with how to address issues of sexuality, the LGBTQ community, and immigration.
Some evangelical Christians have complained that many pastors are less likely in today's society to preach about sin, consequences of sin, homosexuality, and hell.
"There is all this pressure to speak out on issues, or not to speak out on issues," said Kinnaman.
Declining church attendance and morality are also issues of interest.
72% of faith leaders said they are especially concerned about young people dropping out of church.
Surprisingly, Kinnaman said their researchers found that young Christians are often more willing to be challenged and pushed by the church than the church is willing to challenge them.
"Those who are resilient in their faith are actually taught about a lot of really deep, theological truths and we don't shy away from that in those churches that retain young people, that produce resilient discipleship."
Kinnaman said the church environment is more difficult today than in years past and Barna found that many young Christians fear speaking up about their faith and important issues.
"They feel misunderstood, marginalized. It is a very difficult environment to grow up as a young Christian," he explained. "So we should acknowledge that and recognize that, but be all the more committed to teaching these young people the truth about scripture."
Barna polled Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other faith leaders. Researchers found that religious liberty is something that concerns all faith groups in America.
"I think this is an important thing. If we are concerned about religious liberty for Christians, we also ought to be concerned about religious liberty for people of other faith groups," Kinnaman said.
While adults of various faiths share a growing concern about religious freedom, the study reports that under the last two years under the Trump administration, the concern has been mitigated somewhat.
One of the main concerns expressed at this point is about people practicing their faith outside the four walls of their places of worship.
"When you talk about opportunities to run institutions like adoption services and others in a very religiously plural culture, there are concerns about how will people's rights, how will these organizations, how will these churches, how will these colleges and universities – how will their rights, to practice their religion – not only to worship...but be able to practice those faith commitments in the public square," said Kinnaman.
One big take-away from the study?
Kinnaman said it's finding a "better way forward" when it comes to protecting religious liberty rights for all Americans.