Public Attitudes toward Church and State

By Ted G. Jelen; Clyde Wilcox | Go to book overview

examine public attitudes toward concrete issues of church-state establishment.


Notes
1
These data are from the 1984 National Election Study conducted by the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan
2
In our focus-group data, several respondents were uncomfortable with the dichotomies posed by these questions. As one respondent noted with respect to the second item: "Basically, those two categories are too limiting. . . . They're really two separate questions. With the high wall, we're talking about all religions. The other is whether the Judeo-Christian heritage and government should be together. What about government and all religions?"
3
Interestingly, this respondent was quite active in the home-schooling movement and had educated three of her children at home through the primary grades
4
In fact, there are eight possible combinations if missing data are considered After careful inspection of the patterns of responses (both of demographic and religious predictors of positions on the abstract questions, and of specific positions on concrete establishment issues), we have coded those who are missing on one question as holding a consistent position in favor of separation or establishment These respondents differed slightly in their demographic profile from those who genuinely took a consistent position on both issues and were virtually indistinguishable from them in their responses to concrete establishment questions
51
Of course, this is in fact a free-exercise issue and does not deal directly with establishment
6
Only two questions dealt with establishment of non-Christian religions -- funding for Buddhist chaplains and allowing displays of Jewish candles on city property. More than half of all respondents who took this combination of abstract positions favored both of these policies. But a prerequisite to favoring aid to religions is tolerance of their practice. Approximately a third of respondents who took these two abstract positions favored allowing Hare Krishnas, the followers of the Reverend Moon, and Muslims to practice in America. Approximately one in ten favored free exercise for Satan worshipers and opposed limits on "cults"
7
Of course, this problem occurs in other categories as well
8
Because respondents could select from five options on each of three questions, there were myriad response patterns. Nearly 70 percent of the Washington, D.C., area respondents fell into the categories mentioned, however
9
At one Ohio Moral Majority meeting, the Baptist pastor titled his sermon "Roman Catholic Church: Harlot of Rome"
10
We can think of two possible explanations for this pattern. First, blacks and Hispanics may be skeptical of protecting the nation's Judeo-Christian heritage because it elicits a connotation of preserving the dominant American culture, from which non-whites (like Jews) may feel excluded. Alternatively, both groups may be more likely than whites to favor government support of private institutions, including churches
11
We also performed discriminant analysis of the four categories shown in Table 3.1. The logistic regression results are more easily interpretable.

-75-

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