The Separation of Church and State

A new survey provides a snapshot of Christian Nationalism in America

  Rob Boston

Christian Nationalism is undergoing a lot of scrutiny lately. The documentary “God & Country” takes a deep look at the issues, and scads of books have been written about it, with more to come.

In light of the growing interest in Christian Nationalism and the role it’s likely to play in the 2024 election, new research by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) is especially welcome. Among other things, PRRI answers a compelling question: Exactly how many Americans are Christian Nationalists?

“Overall, three in ten Americans qualify as Christian nationalism Adherents or Sympathizers,” reads a PRRI press release. “Republicans (55%) are more than twice as likely as independents (25%) and three times as likely as Democrats (16%) to qualify as Christian nationalism Adherents or Sympathizers. Among Americans who attend religious services weekly or more, a majority (52%) are Christian nationalism Adherents or Sympathizers, compared with 38% of those who attend a few times a year and 18% of those who seldom or never attend.”

America’s pockets of Christian Nationalism

So, who are these people? Do they live all over the country?

“The survey finds there are only two major religious groups in which a majority qualify as Christian nationalism Adherents or Sympathizers: white evangelical Protestants (66%) and Hispanic Protestants (55%),” PRRI reports. “The proportion of Americans who qualify as Christian nationalism Adherents or Sympathizers differs considerably across states. Roughly four in ten residents of red states qualify as Christian nationalists (14% Adherents and 24% Sympathizers), nearly twice the proportion of blue state residents who qualify as Christian nationalists (6% Adherents and 16% Sympathizers).”

Not surprisingly, you find more followers of Christian Nationalism in the Bible Belt than in other regions of the country – although North Dakota harbors quite a few. Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reported, “Mississippi and North Dakota showed the highest levels of support for Christian nationalism, with Adherents and Sympathizers making up 50% of those states. They are followed by Alabama (47%), West Virginia (47%), Louisiana (46%), Tennessee (45%), Kentucky (45%), Nebraska (45%) and Wyoming (45%). States exhibiting the least support for Christian nationalism were Oregon (17%), Massachusetts (18%), Maryland (19%), New York (19%), New Jersey (20%) and Washington (20%).”

Five pertinent questions

To assess the acceptance of Christian Nationalism, PRRI asked respondents if they completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree with five statements:

  • The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.
  • U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.
  • If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.
  • Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.
  • God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.

And in case you are wondering, PRRI President and Founder Robert P. Jones defines Christian Nationalism as a term “for an anti-democratic worldview that has been with us since the founding of our country – the idea that America was designated by God to be a Christian country where white Christians occupy the highest positions of power and laws are judged to be valid based on their particular interpretation of the Bible.”

They’re not a majority

One thing is clear from the PRRI survey: Christian Nationalists don’t constitute a majority of Americans – not even close. But for various reasons, they have outsized influence on our political system.

We change that by recommitting to our nation’s founding principle of religious freedom protected by separation of church and state. If you want to help, there are several things you can do.

First, learn more about Christian Nationalism and how AU works to oppose it. Watch AU’s recent webinar on Christian Nationalism. Get the real story on how the United States pioneered the separation of church and state. Debunk the “Christian nation” myth.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that Americans United is leading the fight against Christian Nationalism by upholding the one thing that’s sure to defeat it: separation of church and state. Please join us.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

Act Now