It turns out a majority of Americans take the same view as Americans United relating to the treatment of houses of worship during this global pandemic. According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, most Americans oppose religious exemptions to public health orders aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, despite public outcry from a select few of the Religious Right, “U.S. adults overwhelmingly say houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations or businesses,” Pew reported. 

The survey, conducted in mid-July, found that that 79% supported this view, while only 19% took an opposing stance, arguing that houses of worship should be treated differently and with more flexibility than other businesses or organizations.

This debate has been taken to the Supreme Court twice over the last few months, with the court declining to grant religious exemptions to public health orders in California or Nevada. According to the survey, a majority of Americans agree with this sentiment.

Among U.S. Christians, 75% believe that houses of worship should be treated like other institutions. Even among Protestant evangelicals, the most outspoken religious group to the coronavirus health restrictions, 62% think that “houses of worship should be held to the same standards as other businesses.”

As religious institutions, like other secular entities, have had to adapt to this new world we live in, most Americans who regularly attend religious services are in favor of houses of worship implementing sensible restrictions and modifications. Only 13% think that houses of worship can operate identically to the way they did before the coronavirus outbreak. A majority of respondents support restrictions such as wearing masks, social distancing of at least six feet apart, limiting the number of people in attendance at services, and reducing the amount of communal singing.

It also appears that most religious leaders are listening to the opinions of the American people as well as the health directives issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 6% of people responded that their houses of worship are open exactly as they were before the pandemic, while 55% responded that their houses of worship are open only on a modified basis with health restrictions in place. Thirty-one percent said that their houses of worship are still completely closed following the stay-at-home orders and bans on large gatherings issued a few months ago.

It is clear from the survey responses that a majority of Americans are on the same page – and they agree with Americans United that treating houses of worship the same as secular entities is necessary during a global health crisis.

Americans United has been making this argument in court in cases across the country and urging legislators to adopt reasonable policies to protect people. Read about our important efforts here.