America has long been thought to be more religiously devout than other economically developed countries. Pundits often assume that this means that Americans are soft on church-state separation issues.
To the contrary, a new AP-Ipsos poll reveals deep-seated wariness among Americans of religious influence on American politics. A solid 61 percent said that they do not think religious leaders should influence government decisions.
The poll also compared the American results to the citizens of Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain and found that the U.S. majority joins the majorities in every other country in supporting church-state separation.
It is quite impressive that Americans, who live in a country without a history of bloody religious warfare, nonetheless understand the need to keep religion and government separate. The stronger majorities in France, Spain and Germany are a result of their local knowledge of the havoc that theocracy can wreak.
This poll is no aberration. Almost all U.S. respondents said faith was important to them, as they have in countless other polls. Most Americans are religious, far more so than the countries in the poll who have state-established churches! That we have for these last 200-plus years allowed religions to flourish by keeping them separate from the state reveals the true wisdom of our Constitution and the commitment of our people to uphold its mandates.