Most Americans support the constitutional separation between state and church, a new Pew Research study demonstrates. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is relieved to see robust backing for this uniquely American founding value, but also has concern about some troubling findings in the report.
Even while the U.S. Supreme Court and pious politicians around the country prop up Christian nationalism and trample on the First Amendment’s guarantee of a secular government, most American adults recognize the wisdom of keeping our government secular. The survey shows that more than three-quarters of U.S. adults approve of the Johnson Amendment’s prohibition on churches and other houses of worship from endorsing political candidates. And over four-fifths of U.S. adults agree that U.S. Supreme Court justices should not “bring their own religious views into how they decide major cases,” which is likely a key reason the court is less popular today than any time in recent history.
However, the new study contains some worrisome revelations, as well. Six-in-ten American adults wrongly believe that the Founders intended to create the United States as a Christian country when in fact the omission of Christian language in the U.S. Constitution was deliberate and truly revolutionary — the United States was the first nation based on the authority of We The People. And 45 percent of Americans think that the United States should be a Christian nation; among these more than half believe that the bible should have more influence on U.S. laws than the will of the people. This shockingly un-American view shows the need for greater education and for secular advocates to stay active.
Interestingly, when asked what it means to be a “Christian nation,” American adults had a wide variety of perspectives. A plurality (34 percent) understood the term to mean that the government would be “guided by Christian beliefs/values,” but nearly as many (31 percent) did not know or did not answer.
“This is a reminder of how important our work is,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Most Americans know that our government keeps state and church separate, and that doing so is a good thing. But dangerous Christian nationalist rhetoric has also muddied the waters in many Americans’ minds, fooling them into thinking that our country either is or should be fundamentally tied to the Christian religion.”
FFRF will continue its fight to uphold the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public about nontheism. There plainly continues to be an urgent need for this mission.