Thursday, September 13, 2007
Okay, yesterday I was talking about the hopeful signs that the religious right was losing its political cohesion and clout. That was the good news. Naturally, next must come the bad ... this time courtesy of a new poll by the First Amendment Center national survey, "State of the First Amendment 2007," released today.
As Charles Haynes of the Center put it:
While the survey shows Americans highly value religious freedom, a significant number support privileging the religion of the majority, especially in public schools. Four decades after the Supreme Court declared state-sponsored religious practices unconstitutional in public schools, 58% of respondents support teacher-led prayers and 43% favor school holiday programs that are entirely Christian. Moreover, 50% would allow schools to teach the Bible as a factual text in a history class.Other results about religion include 65% of Americans believing that America's founders intended it to be a Christian nation and 55% under the delusion that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.
The strong support for official recognition of the majority faith appears to be grounded in a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, in spite of the fact that the Constitution nowhere mentions God or Christianity. Of course, people define "Christian nation" in various ways — ranging from a nation that reflects Christian values to a nation where the government favors the Christian faith. But almost one-third of respondents appear to believe that the religious views of the majority should rule: 28% would deny freedom to worship to any group that the majority considers 'extreme or on the fringe.'
There are also results in other areas, such as freedom of the press, students' right to expression and even the lack of knowledge of Americans as to just what their First Amendment rights are, that are less than comforting.