The strategy of repeating a lie often enough to make people believe it’s true is still an effective one:
Most Americans 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 finds.
The survey measuring attitudes toward freedom of religion, speech and the press found that 55% 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 out 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.
ON THE WEB: Read the full poll results
Most respondents, 58%, say teachers in public schools should be allowed to lead prayers. That is an increase from 2005, when 52% supported teacher-led prayer in public schools.
More people, 43%, say public schools should be allowed to put on Nativity re-enactments with Christian music than in 2005, when 36% did.
Half say teachers should be allowed to use the Bible as a factual text in history class. That’s down from 56% 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 democracy there. “Americans are dying to create a secular democracy in Iraq, and simultaneously a growing number of people want to see a Christian state” here, he says.
Every now and then I get to thinking that maybe I’ve said all there is to say and should stop blogging or perhaps I shouldn’t write another rant on church and state issues or perhaps I shouldn’t keep pointing out that this nation was not founded to be a Christian nation cause the message has gotten across. Then I read polls like this one and realize that I’m not arguing the point often enough.
Rick Green of WallBuilders, an advocacy group that believes the nation was built on Christian principles, says 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.
Well you’re wrong, Rick. Christians had a hand in it, but that doesn’t make it a Christian document. References to Christianity and Christ were intentionally left out after some people tried to get them inserted. How anyone can read the letters from the Founding Fathers and still make this claim is beyond me short of it being a known lie on their part.
The “scariest” number, in Haynes’ opinion, is that only 56% agree that freedom of religion applies to all groups “regardless of how extreme their beliefs are.” That’s down from 72% 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 the fringe.”
A very valid point. Haynes argues that schools aren’t teaching the First Amendment enough. I’d argue they’re not teaching the simple fact that this was country was founded as a secular nation and then provide the historical references that reinforce that fact.
Still, there’s a small bit of good news in this latest poll:
Still, he says, support for constitutional freedoms has rebounded from a low the year after 9/11, when 49% said the First Amendment “goes too far in the rights it guarantees.” Now, 25% agree.
That’s something at least.