Church & State?
America was founded with the idea
religion from interfering in public policy.
By Amy Williams, Staff
- - An extensive Pew Research opinion poll of public response
to a White House initiative to channel more government financing to
religious social services surveyed 2,041 adults last month. The findings
suggest that Americans do favor the principle behind President George
W. Bush's exploration of the idea.
Interestingly, about three of four of those
asked, said they were in favor. And three of four respondents said
that churches and other houses of worship contributed to solving social
In contrast, about an equal percent of respondents
said they would be opposed if the religious groups that received government
money were allowed to hire only people of the same faith.
Under a hiring law passed in 1996, a similar
Charitable Choice provision in the welfare reform legislation
permits such hiring and firing. Majorities of those surveyed were
also opposed to giving government money to, nonwestern or new-age
In the new Pew poll, only four out of ten
respondents favored allowing Muslim mosques to apply for government
funds, the same percentage that approved of letting Buddhist
Only three out of ten approved of the Nation
of Islam's applying for government money, and twenty-six percent
for the Church of Scientology. Even evangelical Christian churches
had only a slim majority in favor, abou fifty percent, barely surpassing
the Mormon churches, which drew the support of fivre out of
President Bush has said his proposal is open
to all faiths, proclaiming at a prayer breakfast, "We welcome all
religion." He has said government contracts and money would be awarded
to social service programs on the basis of proven results, not creed.
It has been Mr. Bush's stand that religious
programs will not be required to omit their religious components and
teachings to receive government money. He wants to fund drug recovery
programs that include prayer and Bible study, as long as the government
money did not directly pay for the Bibles.
But among those polled, six our of ten said
they were concerned that religious social-service programs would force
the people they serve to participate in religious practices. And seven
out of ten said they were concerned that government would interfere
with religious groups that accepted government money. "
Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research
Center for the People and the Press, told reporters, "People
like the concept, but when you question them about the specifics,
there are lots of reservations they have that will have to be addressed
if there is to be public support for this initiative."
Note: This issue has been around since the early Christian era. It
is the relationship between the religion or religions of a nation
and the civil government of that nation, especially the relationship
between the Christian church and various civil governments. There
have been several phases in the relationship between the Christian
church and the state. The uncompromising refusal of the early Christians
to accord divine honors to the Roman emperor was the chief cause of
the imperial persecutions of the church in Roman times. After Constantine
gave it official status, the church at first remained fairly autonomous,
but during the 4th Century the emperor began to figure increasingly
in religious affairs. In the American Colonial period, the Church
of England played an oppressive role as an instrument of government.]
to the Editor
2001 Clovis Free Press Newspaper. All rights reserved.