Public Attitudes toward Church and State

By Ted G. Jelen; Clyde Wilcox | Go to book overview
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attitudes on the establishment of religion appeared to be focused on what is being done by government in the religious sphere, free-exercise attitudes seemed to be based on who is engaged in religious activity.

Finally, there were important differences in the effects of religious variables on church-state attitudes as well. While chapter 4 revealed that most religious variables had the effect of increasing acceptance for "benevolent" government assistance to religion, the analyses in this chapter suggested that the effects of religion on free-exercise attitudes were both more limited and more complex. Religious variables were virtually irrelevant in accounting for variation between respondents on some of these attitudes. In other cases, religious observance or orthodoxy appeared to be a source of theological particularism rather than of generalized support for free exercise.

These findings, in turn, suggest that many Americans hold "communalist" values toward free exercise. That is, religious freedom may be regarded as an instrumental value, which might have the effect of increasing social cohesion and public morality. To the extent that the religious freedom of certain groups does not advance the achievement of such social goals, such liberty seems to be considered much less valuable.

As will be shown below, the use of the term "Americans" in this item appears to connote questions of immigration to some respondents. This item loads quite heavily on a factor relating to the free-exercise rights of immigrants.
That 14 percent of respondents would allow strange religious practice but deny the rights of schoolchildren to wear religious headgear may speak volumes to the limitations of the vision of some Americans.
The Williamsburg surveys were conducted in 1987 when the South-African policy of apartheid was still a prominent issue in international politics.
At the time of this writing, some school districts in the Chicago area had established dress codes in an effort to control street-gang activity.
Some of the focus group respondents were quite willing to make explicitly assimilationist arguments. For a sample of these sentiments, see chapter 3.
We chose this item because the other abstract item was essentially a constant.
It may seem surprising that blacks, who tend to be liberal Democrats, would favor the involvement of groups such as the Moral Majority in politics. Yet research has shown that many blacks are potential supporters of the Christian Right, and a few actually support Christian Right organizations ( Wilcox 1991 a). Allen Hertzke ( 1993) has shown that blacks were a potential constituency for Pat Robertson. Once again, blacks were slightly less likely to favor a political role for


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Public Attitudes toward Church and State


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