The Separation of Church and State

Poll shows most Americans believe religion’s influence is waning

  Rob Boston

Pew Research Center is out with a new poll about how Americans perceive the influence of religion in public life, and, as usual, there’s a lot to chew on.

One of the core findings of the new poll is that most Americans believe religion’s influence over U.S. society is declining, and about half think that’s a bad thing.

Overall, 80% of Americans say religion’s influence is declining, and 49% say that’s bad. 13% say religion’s influence is declining and that’s good, while 18% say it is in decline but this doesn’t make a difference.

Defining ‘influence’

A term like “religion’s influence” can be slippery, meaning different things to different people. Many people – unfairly, in the view of non-religious Americans – see religion as a guarantor of morality and good behavior. They may fret that if religion loses influence, people will behave badly. Others define “influence” in ways that may violate separation of church and state by insisting that religious groups should have the power to influence or even direct public policy.

The Pew survey shows that a majority, 55%, say the government should enforce the separation of church and state, while only 16% favor the government abandoning the principle. Some people, it seems, may bemoan religion’s loss of influence without drifting into anti-separationism.

Another part of the survey concerns Christian Nationalism. And here we see the need for the work of groups like Americans United. Numerous books have been written about Christian Nationalism, the term has been bandied about by the media and it was the focus of a recent documentary “God & Country” – yet 54% say they’re not familiar with the term.

Christian Nationalism is unpopular

Religion News Service reporter Jack Jenkins noted, “About 45% of those polled said they had heard of Christian nationalism or read about it, with 54% saying they had never heard of the ideology – the same percentages as in September 2022. Overall, 25% had an unfavorable view of Christian nationalism, whereas only 5% had a favorable view and 6% had neither a favorable nor unfavorable view.”

That’s interesting data. It underscores that defenders of separation of church and state need to keep working to expose the threat of Christian Nationalism because it would appear that once Americans know what it is, most don’t like it.

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.

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