A majority of Americans believe the government should stay out of a faith-based organization’s internal religious disputes, according to a new survey that showed widespread support for the religious liberty of churches protected by the First Amendment.
The poll, conducted as part of CARAVAN’s weekly omnibus survey among 1,004 U.S. adults, found that by a margin of 68-23 percent Americans believe that “an important facet of separation of church and state is that the government cannot get involved in a religious organization’s internal religious disputes.”
The survey was released Tuesday and conducted April 20-22 for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“When it comes to important decisions about who can pass on a religious organization’s faith to the next generation, Americans agree that the buck stops well before Uncle Sam,” said Montse Alvarado, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Leaving important decisions about a religion’s future in that religion’s hands is a commonsense application of the First Amendment."
The survey also found that:
- 66 percent of Americans believe a “religious organization should be able to make decisions about who it hires to teach its faith to the next generation, free from government control.”
- 59 percent believe the “government should never be allowed to resolve disputes about a religion’s interpretation of its own teachings.”
- 55 percent say an “employee of a religious organization may play an important role in passing on a religion’s teachings,” even if “the employee does not have a religious-sounding title.”
Meanwhile, Americans also correctly answered four true/false constitutional questions, despite skepticism about society’s civics knowledge.
For example, 83 percent correctly answered “false” to the statement: “The government can regulate who can lead a private religious group and who cannot.”
Additionally, 82 percent correctly answered “true” to this statement: “According to the Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution protects the right of a religious organization to choose those who carry out its important religious functions, such as preaching its beliefs, teaching its faith, and carrying out its mission.”
A total of 79 percent of Americans correctly answered “false” to this statement: “Religious functions of churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations must be approved by the government.”
Finally, 72 percent correctly answered “false” to this statement: “The U.S. Constitution does not protect a religious organization’s right to maintain and teach its own beliefs if those beliefs are unpopular or behind the times.”
Photo courtesy: Nagesh Badu/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.