Founders' intent was Christian U.S., poll says
55% believe that is written in Constitution
Sept. 12, 2007 12:00 AM
believe the nation's founders wrote
Christianity into the Constitution, and people are
less likely to say freedom to worship covers religious
groups they consider extreme, a poll out today says.
The survey measuring attitudes toward freedom of
religion, speech and the press found that 55 percent
believe erroneously that the Constitution establishes
a Christian nation. In the survey, which is conducted
annually by the First Amendment Center, a non-partisan
educational group, three of four people who identify
themselves as evangelical or Republican believe that
the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. About
half of Democrats and independents do.
Most respondents, 58 percent, say public-school
teachers should be allowed to lead prayers. That is an
increase from 2005, when 52 percent supported prayer
in public schools.
Half say teachers should be allowed to use the Bible
as a factual text in history class. That's down from
56 percent in 2000.
Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First
Amendment Center, says the findings are particularly
troubling during a week when the top diplomat in Iraq
gave a report to Congress on progress toward achieving
"Americans are dying to create a secular democracy in
Iraq, and simultaneously a growing number of people
want to see a Christian state" here, Haynes says.
He says the Constitution "clearly established a
secular nation where people of all faiths or no faith
are protected to practice their religion or no
religion without governmental interference."
Rick Green of WallBuilders, an advocacy group that
believes the nation was built on Christian principles,
says that the poll doesn't mean a majority favors a
"theocracy" but that the Constitution reflects
Christian values, including religious freedom.
"I would call it a Christian document, just like the
Declaration of Independence," he says.
The "scariest" number, in Haynes' opinion, is that
only 56 percent agree that freedom of religion applies
to all groups "regardless of how extreme their beliefs
are." That's down from 72 percent in 2000. More than
one in four say constitutional protection of religion
does not apply to "extreme" groups.
Haynes says many Americans consider Islam extreme,
especially since the Sept. 11 attacks. But he says
Roman Catholics were viewed that way in the 19th
century, and some people still consider Mormons "on
Not all questions in the poll were asked every year.
The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted Aug. 16-26.
It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2