Americans are showing more tolerance for a range of behaviors, with sex between unmarried adults, medical research on stem cells from human embryos, and doctor-assisted suicide all showing record highs and increases in “moral acceptability” from last year. The Gallup poll’s annual “moral acceptability” scale has been conducted since 2001 and charts shifting cultural attitudes on a number of hot-button social issues. In the 2014 list, Gallup researchers said 12 of the 19 categories reflected “levels of moral acceptance that are as high or higher than in the past.” The latest research shows 90 percent of Americans polled see birth control as “highly acceptable.” Behaviors deemed “largely acceptable” include divorce (69 percent); sex between an unmarried man and woman (66 percent); embryonic stem cell research (65 percent); gambling (62 percent); the death penalty (61 percent); buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur (58 percent); having a baby outside of marriage (58 percent); gay or lesbian relations (58 percent); and medical testing on animals (57 percent). Behaviors termed “conscientious” include doctor-assisted suicide (52 percent) and abortion (42 percent). The 2014 figures were based on 1,028 phone interviews with adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Court puts to rest Murfreesboro mosque dispute. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a dispute over construction of the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The four-year conflict over construction of the mosque, which opened in 2012, brought national attention to the Bible Belt city of 112,000 about 30 miles south of Nashville. Hundreds marched in protest after Rutherford County officials approved plans for the mosque in 2010.Televangelist Pat Robertson labeled the Islamic center a “mega mosque” and claimed Muslims were taking over Murfreesboro. An arsonist set fire to construction equipment on the building site. Mosque opponents eventually filed a suit against Rutherford County, seeking to block construction of the worship space. Mosque foes claimed local officials failed to give adequate notice of a meeting where plans for the mosque’s construction were approved. Initially, a local judge ruled for the mosque foes and ordered a halt to mosque construction. But a federal court quickly overruled that decision, paving the way for the mosque to open in 2012. A state appeals court also later overturned the lower court decision.