Robert Putnam and several other researchers discovered that there is a large gap between what Americans say about religious freedom and what they are actually willing to live near:
Three quarters of Americans said they would support a large Buddhist temple in their community, but only 15 percent would explicitly welcome one. Americans, in other words, supported the idea of a temple but weren’t so crazy about the bricks-and-mortar aspect of things.
Recent survey findings in the wake of the Ground Zero controversy reveal similar findings:
Polling last week from Quinnipiac University revealed exactly the same paradox. Seventy percent of Americans support the rights of Muslims to build the mosque, but 63 percent believe it would be inappropriate to actually build it.
It sounds like there is an ideal that Americans hold about freedom of religion: many different groups are welcome. But this ideal is difficult to put into action.