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Churches and politicians should stay in their own lanes, say Americans

A record 38 percent of Americans, including 24 percent of Republicans, say their political leaders are talking too much about faith and prayer. Fifty-four percent say churches should stay out of politics, says a Pew Research Poll.

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (C) receives a blessing from Pastor Dennis E. Terry, Sr. (L) after being interviewed by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (R) at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana March 18, 2012.

REUTERS/Sean Gardner

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Americans are increasingly uneasy with the mingling of religion and politics, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, in the midst of a campaign season punctuated by tussles over the role of faith in the public square.

Back in 2001, when Pew first asked the question, just 12 percent of Americans complained that their politicians talked too much about religion.

That number has risen steadily ever since and hit a record high in the new poll: 38 percent of Americans, including 24 percent of Republicans, now say their political leaders are overdoing it with their expressions of faith and prayer. The Pew study said that  between 1996 and 2006 the balance of opinion on this question consistently tilted in the opposite direction - favoring more church input on political and social issues.

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And more Americans than ever, 54 percent, believe churches should keep out of politics. That's up from 43 percent in 1996, according to the Pew Research Center.

The national poll of 1,503 adults, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, was conducted in early March, as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was ramping up its vigorous campaign against a new federal mandate requiring all insurance companies to provide free birth control.

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