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More White Christians Say Businesses Should Refuse Serving Black Americans Based on Religious Grounds

In its most recent survey gauging support for service refusals based on religious grounds, the Public Religion Research Institute found consistent support across party lines, and a strong increase among White Christians, for such refusals to be used against African Americans.

In an article titled “Increasing Support for Religiously Based Service Refusals,” the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) looked at how Americans feel about religious-based rejection of service to those who identify as gay or lesbian, transgender, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, and African American.

General Anti-Black Service Refusals on Religious Grounds

While support for service refusals on religious grounds were the highest for people who identify as gay or lesbian or transgender, a small number of Americans think small business owners should be allowed to refuse service based on skin color — that is, if a customer is Black.

PRRI found that the number of Americans who now support service refusal on religious grounds to African Americans, Jews, Muslims, and atheists has actually increased over the last five years.

The smallest point increase among these groups (including gays and lesbians and transgender people) is reflected for religious-based service refusals to African Americans. In 2014, 10 percent of survey respondents said they support such an option for small business owners in their state; in 2019, that support increased by 5 percent.

The PRRI survey did not provide examples of what kinds of religious exemptions a small business owner might provide to refuse servicing Black people. Nor did the organization state why it included African Americans as an option in the survey — and not Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, or Native Americans. However, the anti-Black view among survey respondents heralds back to a time when the country’s laws prohibited Blacks from being serviced alongside Whites or frequenting White establishments.

Refusing Service to Blacks Consistent Across Party Lines


The biggest distinction PRRI found when it examined support for service refusals based on religious grounds among respondents was tied to party affiliation. The organization found that Republicans were more likely than Independents and Democrats to back religious-based service refusals to certain groups.

PRRI notes, however, “The only group where this is no significant partisan difference is support for allowing businesses to refuse to serve African Americans.”

So, a similar number of Americans who identify as Republican (18 percent), Independent (14 percent), and Democrat (16 percent) see eye-to-eye on allowing small business owners in their state to refuse servicing other Americans based on skin color.

White Christians’ Support for Anti-Black Service Refusals Spike

The PRRI reports that both religious and non-religious Americans support service refusals to African Americans based on religious grounds. However, the strongest support for such service refusals is among White Christians.

“Support for religiously based service refusals targeting African Americans has more than doubled among [W]hite evangelical Protestants (up to 22 percent now from 8 percent in 2014) and [W]hite mainline Protestants (up to 22 percent from 5 percent),” PRRI reports, “while the religiously unaffiliated (11 percent vs. 10 percent), Catholics (14 percent vs. 12 percent), and nonwhite Protestants (14 percent vs. 10 percent) have remained mostly stable in their attitudes on these issues.”

About the PRRI Survey on Service Refusal

PRRI states that it sampled 1,100 random respondents for its survey, “based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between April 9 and April 20, 2019.” Survey respondents were at least 18 years old.

Notably, PRRI states that it “over-sampled those living in Texas (150).” As for choosing which household representative to survey, its professional interviewers asked to question “the youngest adult male or female currently living in the household.”

The organizations discloses that the margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points with a confidence level of 95 percent.

PRRI describes itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.”

prri survey service refusal
(Image via PRRI)

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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