New research by Pew reveals that many Americans have a positive view of the role played by the church in society, but less so when it comes to the nation’s political life.
Over half surveyed (55%) were positive about the role of religious institutions in American life, saying that they believe “churches and religious organizations do more good than harm in American society”.
Only a quarter (24%) said they do more harm than good.
The favourable view extended to religious figures, with nearly two thirds (65%) saying that religious leaders in general have high or very high ethical standards
But these positive perceptions waned when it came to the role of religious institutions in political life.
Nearly two thirds (63%) said that churches and other houses of worship “should keep out of political matters”. Only around a third (36%) say they should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions.
Three-quarters were opposed to churches coming out in favour of a particular candidate during the elections.
This finding is “in contrast with efforts by President Trump to roll back existing legal limits on houses of worship endorsing candidates”, Pew said.
Over a third of Americans (37%) said that churches and other places of worship had too much influence in politics, compared to 28% who said they had too little. Around a third (34%) said that their influence was about right.
Furthermore, over three quarters (78%) of the respondents said they believed that religion is losing its influence in America today. Those surveyed were far more likely to feel sad about this decline (42%) than feel good about it (17%) or say that it makes no difference (19%).
Commenting on the findings, Pew said: “While some say this is a good thing, many more view it as a negative development, reflecting the broad tendency of Americans to see religion as a positive force in society.
“At the same time, U.S. adults are resoundingly clear in their belief that religious institutions should stay out of politics.”
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