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These Americans want to blur the lines between church and state

Interest in church-state integration varies by education level, religious beliefs and other factors, according to Pew Research Center

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Religious leaders pray with President Donald Trump after he signed a proclamation for a national day of prayer to occur on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

Pew Research Center’s latest report on religion and government is worth a read if you follow religious freedom news. It explores support for church-state separation, detailing how many Americans want public school teachers to lead prayers or believe the Constitution is divinely inspired, among other things.

Pew found that a “clear majority” of U.S. adults are “separationists,” meaning they see value in maintaining distance between political and religious institutions. These Americans may want public officials to acknowledge the good work of faith groups and even partner with them on humanitarian projects, but they don’t want policymakers to exclusively focus on Christian concerns.

However, 14% of adults do want to see open advocacy for Christian values and a blurring of the line between church and state. “Some Americans clearly long for a more avowedly religious and explicitly Christian country,” Pew noted.

Who are these Americans exactly? Pew’s report offers some clues. It showed that 77% of church-state integrationists identify as Republican or lean Republican, 64% think immigrants threaten traditional American values and 63% believe society is better off when people prioritize getting married and having kids.

Researchers also crunched the numbers to figure out what share of various demographic groups reject church-state separation. For most faith groups, the percentage of integrationists was below 20%. White evangelicals (36%) and Hispanic Protestants (26%) were the exception.

Integrationist beliefs were more common among older Americans than the young. Education also seems to play a role, since the share of integrationists decreased as years of schooling increased. The share of women who reject church-state separation (14%) was nearly identical to the share of men in the same category (15%).

Unsurprisingly, very few nonreligious and non-Christian Americans want to see the gap close between church and state. “A desire for church-state integration is almost nonexistent among U.S. Jews (1%) and the religiously unaffiliated (2%), who consist of those describing their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular,’” Pew reported.


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