Most Americans Oppose Church Electioneering, Opinion Poll Finds. (People and Events)

Article excerpt

A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe churches should not endorse candidates for public office, results that could slow down congressional efforts to allow church-based electioneering.

The survey, released March 20 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that 70 percent of respondents said churches should not endorse political candidates, while only 22 percent backed such activity. Opposition to church-based politicking cut across racial and denominational lines.

Despite the lack of support among the American people, three bills are currently pending in Congress that would rewrite federal tax law to allow houses of worship to spend church resources on political candidates.

The bill receiving the most attention is Rep. Walter Jones' "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act" (H.R. 2357), which has already garnered the support of 113 co-sponsors in the House. Several Religious Right leaders, including Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, have been aggressively lobbying on behalf of the legislation. Capitol Hill sources indicate the House may hold committee hearings on the bill in May. (See "Politicizing The Pulpit," April 2002 Church & State.)

A closer look at the Pew Forum's results show that church politicking was unpopular among all tested demographic groups. For example, the report indicates that white Catholics and white mainline Protestants -- regardless of their level of religious commitment -- reject church political endorsements by more than a three-to-one margin.

The highest support for churches endorsing political candidates came from self-described white evangelical Christians. …