Religious freedom for faith-based organizations

Religious FreedomMany faith-based organizations are finding some of their religiously-based practices under threat.  Some have found their right to only hire persons in agreement with their religious mission challenged, Christian student organizations at secular universities have been denied recognition because of their Christian practices, churches and faith-based social service organizations have been pressured due to their work with undocumented immigrants, and Catholic and Evangelical adoption agencies have gone out of business when state regulations required them to place children with same-sex or unmarried opposite-sex couples.  These and other pressures on faith-based organizations have been increasing.

In 2016, Free to Serve (authored by Henry Institute Senior Research Fellow Stephen Monsma with Stanley Carlson-Thies) used a series of case studies to make the argument for protecting the religious freedoms of faith-based colleges and universities, international relief and development agencies, hospitals and health clinics, social service agencies, student organizations on secular campuses, and clearly faith-based for-profit businesses.  The book argues that no religious tradition's faith-based organizations should be favored over any other – nor should they be favored over secular organizations.  Instead, all should be free to be who they are and to continue to serve those in need in keeping with their religious or secular nature.  The book concludes with a series of brief essays by persons from six different religious backgrounds supporting the book's concern for organizations' freedom to follow their beliefs.

Free to Serve was published by Baker Publishing, Brazos imprint, in 2015. [More information and purchasing information for the book.]

Research partners

  • Stephen Monsma, Henry Institute Senior Research Fellow
  • Co-author: Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies, President of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Additional resources

Faith, Hope and Jobs, Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper, published 2007 by Georgetown University Press 

Pluralism and Freedom, Stephen V. Monsma, published 2012 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers 

Free to Serve, Stephen V. Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies, published 2015 by Baker Publishing Group

The Center for Public Justice has published numerous articles about religious freedom rights that are available through their website by searching "religious freedom."

Explore Further

Should everyone who cares about the common good support religious freedom for faith-based organizations? Henry Institute Research Fellow Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies argue in their new book that "freedom is not a zero-sum game" with two irreconcilable visions clashing in a United States culture war. Read more about the new book in this Cardus comment page.

Stephen Monsma considers principled pluralism as a way to approach the current conversations about the freedom of faith-based agencies to act in accordance with their religious beliefs
    (CPJ Capital Commentary, 7/2015)

Stanley Carlson-Thies ponders whether we should be required to shed our convictions and identities when we enter the public square
    (CPJ Capital Commentary, 2/2015)

The indiscriminate use of the word "discrimination" and the bias against religious traditions with clear doctrinal or behavioral standards is discussed by Stephen Monsma
    (CPJ Capital Commentary, 9/2014)

State Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills considered by Stanely Carlson-Thies
    (CPJ Capital Commentary, 3/2014)

Diversity and pluralism mean that we must learn to live with, tolerate and respect those with whose beliefs, lifestyles and actions are different than our own according to Stephen Monsma
    (CPJ Capital Commentary, 2/2012)

Stephen Monsma asserts that there is a fine, but crucial distinction between earlier nondiscrimination laws and what the gay rights movement is now demanding
    (CPJ Capital Commentary, 9/2011)

Kristin Du Mez considers religious freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, and Fairness for All
     (, 5/4/2017)