Magazine article The Christian Century

Survey Finds One in Three in U.S. Don't Want Clergy for Civil Marriages

Magazine article The Christian Century

Survey Finds One in Three in U.S. Don't Want Clergy for Civil Marriages

Article excerpt

Two surveys released in December by LifeWay Research show some support for separating religious marriage from civil marriage.

In a survey of 2,000 American adults, the Nashville-based Christian research company found the following.

* Nearly six in ten Americans (59 percent) say marriage should not be "defined and regulated by the state."

* Nearly half (49 percent) say "religious weddings should not be connected to the state's definition and recognition of marriage."

* About a third (36 percent) say clergy should "no longer be involved in the state's licensing of marriage." However, more than half (53 percent) disagree.

* Those most likely to favor a split between religious weddings and government or civil marriage include 54 percent of men, 53 percent of Catholics and 45 percent of Protestants.

LifeWay also conducted a parallel survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors. It found that one in four favor separating the religious rites from their signature on a government-issued marriage license that makes the ceremony legally binding. This is how it's done in many foreign countries already, but not--so far--in the United States.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, called it noteworthy that so many pastors are willing "to stop saying 'By the power vested in me by the state' during a church wedding. …

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