A new poll indicates that while most Americans support religious diversity, the members of one religious group resist the principle: white evangelicals.
The survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), found that a disturbingly high number of white evangelical Protestants don’t appreciate America’s religious diversity. They’d rather that everyone believed as they do.
PRRI asked people to evaluate two statements and place themselves on a scale between them. The first statement was, “I would prefer the U.S. to be made up of people belonging to a wide variety of religions” and the other statement was, “I would prefer the U.S. to be a nation primarily made up of people who follow the Christian faith.”
Among all Americans, 38% placed themselves close to the statement that supports religious diversity, and 38% put themselves in the middle. 24% said they identify with the statement favoring a country where most people are Christian.
But among white evangelicals, the figures were much different. 57% of them said they’d rather live in a country where most are Christian. Only 13% expressed support for pluralism, and 30% were in the middle.
No other religious group rejected pluralism so decisively. As PRRI noted, “[W]hite evangelical Protestants are the only religious group in which a majority (57%) express a preference for a mostly Christian country.”
On its “Wall of Separation” blog, Americans United noted that James Madison, a primary author of the Constitution and its guarantee of religious freedom, supported religious diversity in part to keep any one denomination from getting too powerful.
Madison lauded the “multiplicity of sects, which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society” and added, “For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.”
AU’s Rob Boston observed, “White evangelicals may feel this way because they simply don’t appreciate other faith and non-faith perspectives and what they bring to our nation. Or, like Madison, they may acknowledge pluralism as a barrier to efforts by one religious group to impose its theology on others and bend the law to its liking. (But unlike Madison, they don’t see that as a good thing.) Either way, it’s disturbing to realize that so many of our fellow Americans, despite their claims to be patriots who love our country, don’t appreciate the diversity that springs from a policy of complete religious freedom for all.”