(http://www NULL.morallaw NULL.org/Monument NULL.htm)The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State still have their work cut out for them—although it appears few Americans want them to keep at it. While those secularist groups have been fairly successful at driving religion from our schools and many public places, the large majority of Americans still believe that prayers should be in schools and religious displays like the Ten Commandments should be in courthouses and public places.
A new study (http://ellisonresearch NULL.com/releases/20080110 NULL.htm) released last week by Ellison Research (http://ellisonresearch NULL.com/default NULL.htm) shows that Americans are indeed united . . . in their belief that religion belongs in the public square.
- 90% feel the law should support religious groups renting public property, such as a public school gym or a library room, for meetings if non-religious groups are allowed to do so
- 89% say it should be legal for a public school teacher to permit a “moment of silence” for prayer or contemplation for all students during class time
- 88% believe it should be legal for public school teachers to wear religious symbols, such as a Star of David or a cross, during class time
- 87% say voluntary student-led prayers at public school events, such as football games or graduation ceremonies, should be legal
- 83% believe the display of a nativity scene on city property, such as city hall, should be legal
- 79% say it should be legal to display a copy of the Ten Commandments inside a court building.
Not surprisingly, evangelical conservatives showed the greatest percentage of support for religion in public. But what is surprising is that such support among nonevangelical, non-religious, and/or liberal respondents, while lower, was not that much lower, and was rarely less than a majority of those categories.
Some of these scenarios get positioned as issues championed by evangelical Christians, but this is only part of the truth. Evangelicals are significantly more likely than other Americans to believe most of these scenarios should be legal in the U.S. today. However, non-evangelicals usually have the same perspective as evangelicals – just with majorities that are not as strong. For instance, 97% of evangelicals believe it should be legal for the Ten Commandments to be displayed inside court buildings, but 77% of non-evangelicals also believe this should be legal.
What may be most surprising is when the scenarios are viewed according to political affiliations and beliefs. Ninety-five percent of those who describe themselves as politically conservative believe voluntary student-led prayers at public school events should be legal. This same perspective is held by 90% of self-described moderates, and even 73% of those who call themselves liberal. Eighty-eight percent of conservatives believe nativity scenes on city property should be legal, as do 88% of moderates, and 70% of liberals.
So even among what is commonly thought of as the core constituency for ACLU & Co.—liberal Democrats—religious freedom is still highly favored:
Indeed, the majority of Democrats and self-described political liberals believe the law should allow nativity scenes on city property, displays honoring Islam on city property, displays of the Ten Commandments in court buildings, teachers wearing religious symbols, moments of silence for prayer or reflection during class times, equal access to public facilities for religious groups, and voluntary student-led prayers at public school events.
There are more interesting numbers if you follow the link, but the conclusions by Ellison’s president, Ron Sellers, are worth noting here:
“There’s too often a stereotype in today’s world that one side – be they defined as churchgoers, conservatives, the ‘religious right,’ Republicans, evangelicals, or whatever—want to turn the U.S. into a theocracy or shove religion down everyone’s throats, while the other side—again, be they called Democrats, the non-religious, liberals, or the unchurched—are anti-religion and fighting to make this a purely secular society. On most of these issues, these different groups have a lot more in common than the stereotypes would suggest—most people simply support the right to individual religious expression, even if another person may not like that expression.”
Sellers also noted that this study can be seen as being about individual freedoms, rather than just religion. “By definition, giving rights to one person means taking rights away from another. If I have the right to paint my house any color I want, my neighbor loses the right not to have to look at a purple house. Americans clearly come down on the side of freedoms and rights for individuals and groups, and against restrictions. They believe in the right of a student to express herself at graduation, or the right of a church to rent a public school gym for its services, or the right of a public school teacher to wear a Star of David on his lapel. The majority feels those who don’t wish to listen to a prayer at graduation or see the Ten Commandments in a court building have the right to ignore these things – but not the right to stop others from expressing themselves.”
America was and always has been about freedom, especially religious freedom. It was the primary motivation of most of the early settlers and, by no accident, it was the first freedom protected in our first amendment. “We the People” enshrined our constitutional protections for religion and have never amended those protections since.
Mind you, this study was not asking whether those scenarios of prayer in schools and Ten Commandments were legal, but whether the respondents thought they should be legal. So this is not a case of constitutional interpretation as much as constitutional reinforcement: “We the People” still like our freedom to express religion in public places free from interference by judges and liberal lawyers.
It’s nice to see that, despite years of being told again (http://www NULL.indystar NULL.com/apps/pbcs NULL.dll/article?AID=/20080115/LOCAL/80115041) and again (http://www NULL.au NULL.org/site/News2?abbr=pr&page=NewsArticle&id=9611&security=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241) that the Constitution prohibits religious expression in the public square, the majority of Americans of all religious and political stripes still don’t buy the lie.