Americans Support Separation in Theory More Than Practice, Politics Scholar Asserts

Article excerpt

Americans support church-state separation and religious liberty more in theory than in practice, a political science professor says.

Ted Jelen, a scholar at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said his research has led him to conclude, "There is widespread support for the idea of religious freedom as a symbol, but many Americans are quite willing to restrict the actual religious liberty of specific groups considered dangerous or strange."

According to the Associated Baptist Press, Jelen presented his findings during the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Houston last November. During his remarks, he noted that "a great many Americans would deny so-called Moonies or Satanists the right to recruit among high school students or deny Native Americans the right to use hallucinogenic drugs as part of religious rituals."

When it comes to the wall of separation between church and state, Jelen reported that many Americans say they endorse a high wall but don't necessarily put it in to practice. "Large majorities of respondents in opinion surveys in the United States endorse such concepts as a 'high wall' of separation between church and state," Jelen reported. …