Holland Sentinel: Michigan Can Do Better on Religious Liberty


Editor’s Note: The following op-ed was published in the Holland Sentinel on September 29, 2022, and is co-authored by Dr. Sarah M. Estelle, associate professor of economics at Hope College in Holland, Mich. and director of Religious Liberty in the States, and Dr. Jordan J. Ballor, director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy at First Liberty Institute.

While the federal government largely sets the context for many of the areas identified in the RLS index, the research for the project identified significant areas of potential and actual differentiation among the 50 states.

Where a particular provision was found in a state’s law that had relevance for providing legal protection for free exercise, that item was identified and compared to every other state to see if similar provisions were present. When all these items were scored and tallied, the RLS index found a wide variety of areas where some states were active and others were not. Michigan, for example, with a score of 26%, ranks 44th in the 2022 RLS index. That’s well-below the average score of 39% and below other states in the Midwest, like Ohio (which ranks 30th at 34%), Indiana (which ranks 23rd at 40%), and Wisconsin (which ranks 39th at 31%). In fact, the only state in the Midwest with a lower score than Michigan is Iowa, which places 46th in the nation at 23%.

Two places where Michigan has made clear provisions to protect religious believers are in the areas of voting and childhood immunizations. If a polling day conflicts with a religious holiday in Michigan, then religious adherents in Michigan have the ability to vote absentee, and there are exemptions for parents from immunization requirements for their children if their beliefs conflict with government policy.

The good news is that Michigan has a great deal of room to improve for accommodating the free exercise of religion rightfully enjoyed and protected for all Michiganders.

Read the entire article in the Holland Sentinel here.