How Faith-Friendly Is Your State? New Report Provides Religious Freedom Rankings

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Lyrah Panarigan Contributor
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New research found that Alabama and Texas rank the highest in embracing religious liberty within their state laws.

The Faith and Freedom Index (FFI) report by NAPA Legal Institute (NLI) evaluated the 50 states and the District of Columbia’s laws regarding faith-based, federally tax-exempt nonprofits. Alabama received the top overall score of 75% due to having “constitutional provisions for the free exercise of religion” and automatic income tax exemption for organizations with federal 501(c)(3) status, among other protections. Texas ranked second with 72% for having similar protections and protecting religious exercise during a state of emergency. (RELATED: California Court Orders Church To Pay $1.2 Million For Violating COVID Lockdown)

Other high-ranking states overall include Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Iowa and Kansas.

The majority of the United States ranked within 40-60% of an overall friendliness rate, including states with administrations that do not highly favor religion — California, Washington and Oregon had moderate policies that neither allowed nor inhibited religious non-profits.

The worst states for religious “friendliness” include Maryland (29%), Michigan (29%) and Nevada (32%). “The states feature both complicated regulatory regimes and only minimal protections for faith-based organizations,” NAPA stated in a press release.

Other “red-tape” states for religious non-profits include Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maine, Hawai’i and Utah.

The study includes fourteen weighted factors and divides into two categories: religious freedom and regulatory freedom. The study analyzes each state’s law and how it most affects religious non-profits, looking at various components like state constitutional protections, the exclusion of the Blaine Amendment, or smaller factors like property taxes or audit requirements. (RELATED: States Have Become The New Battleground For Religious Liberty

“We want to encourage states to minimize the burdens on these people and really focus oversight and enforcement on wrongdoers,” NLI Vice President Mary Margaret Beecher told Fox News. “We don’t want to go in with an attitude of guilty until proven innocent and instead, really have a collaborative approach [to] make the laws as straightforward and simple as possible.”