Freedom of religion retained its C+ average from last quarter, with only a slight dip in grade point average (2.36, versus 2.40 last quarter). Once again, “B” was the most commonly awarded grade.
In the previous two quarters, the Trump administration’s travel ban was a major factor our panelists’ assessment of freedom of religion. This remained true this quarter, but now that the travel ban is in its third iteration, many of the panelists opted to take a “wait and see” approach until the Supreme Court delivers the final say on whether or not the ban will survive.
Still, some panelists docked some points from religious freedom on account of the greater scope of the new travel ban. Rick Blum, director of News Media for Open Government, wrote that, “This quarter religious freedom dropped a full grade as the administration’s travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries was extended (and expanded to include North Korea and Venezuela).” Similarly, Nathaniel Frederick, professor of mass communication at Winthrop University, took issue with the addition of Chad to the list of countries targeted by the ban, stating that, “This administration’s ban on the country of Chad seems religiously motivated, given that Chad had been an ally in fighting terrorism with the United States and the West.”
Outside of the travel ban, David Forte, professor of law at Cleveland State University, noted a positive development for religious freedom: “The protection of pastors who speak politically from the pulpit is a welcome advance in freedom of religion.” And Mark Trahant, professor of journalism at the University of North Dakota, brought up the limited nature of most of the national conversations about religious freedom.