Poll Shows Connecticut Voters Support Secular Politics

While they are not be representative of voters nation wide, Connecticut voters are firm believers in secular politics regardless of their religious views according to a poll conducted by the Hartford Courant. The poll found that Connecticut voters felt there was too much influence of religion in politics compared to only 32% who approved of the current amount.

This view makes residents distinct from Americans across the country. In addition to the half of Constitution state residents who feel religion has too much influence on American politics, 32% say organized religion’s influence on politics is “about right,” and only 17% feel religion’s influence is not enough. In stark contrast to these views, Americans as a whole are evenly divided over the influence of religion. Only 32% feel religion has too much influence, 31% think it has too little influence, and 29% feel the balance is right, according to a Newsweek poll conducted earlier this year.

Connecticut voters oppose religious leaders becoming involved in electoral politics and public policy:

Consistent with the view that religion is too influential politically, Connecticut residents oppose political leaders becoming involved in both electoral politics and public policy. In the electoral realm, 70% of residents feel religious leaders should not encourage voters to support or oppose a particular candidate. Only 25% feel that religious leaders should do so.
The Courant / CSRA survey demonstrates that residents also oppose religious leaders trying to affect politicians’ policy positions. Two-thirds (66%) believe leaders should not try to influence politicians’ views on issues. Only 27% believe religious leaders should try to influence politicians’ issue positions.

Even the most religious residents of the Nutmeg state oppose religious leaders taking these political actions. Among those residents who say religion is “extremely important” in their lives, 64% oppose religious leaders urging support or opposition to candidates for office. When it comes to political issues, 51% of the most religious feel religious leaders should not try to influence politicians, while 42% believe they should…

Connecticut residents are also clear about keeping religion out of government policy. Sixty-eight percent feel that politicians should not rely on their own religious beliefs to make policy decisions. Only 26% of residents support politicians mixing personal religion and policy.

More broadly, Connecticut residents believe in a strict separation of church and state. Sixty-seven percent would rather see a “high degree of separation between church and state” while 27% believe the government should “protect America’s religious heritage.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State discussed this poll and the reasons quoted the views of an Episcopal priest regarding the importance of differentiating between religious belief and public policy:

Episcopal priest Tom Ehrich explained in a recent Religion News Service column why fusing religious belief and public policy is dangerous.

“What we learned from Europe’s religious wars and from the more recent horror of the Taliban isn’t some historical footnote,” wrote Ehrich. “It’s the reason we keep religion out of political life.”

He continued, “Power corrupts everyone who holds it, but corruption and carnage increase exponentially when the religious hold political and cultural power. Religious zealots can’t handle the reins. They don’t know how to compromise. They don’t know how to admit error. They don’t know how to encourage freedom and the many unexpected places freedom will lead.”

This does not mean that people of faith should not participate in politics. They absolutely should, but they cannot depend on government to satisfy, in Ehrich’s words, their “yearning for a deeper faith, for beliefs that make sense of a confusing and dangerous world, for a sense of God as deeply engaged with us in seeking a just society.”

Ehrich wrote that everyone – from politicians to school children – must remember “American values are expressed in the Constitution, not in the Law of Moses or the Quran.

“If history teaches nothing else,” he concludes, “it teaches that religion makes a mess of government and society when it has too much power. There is no reason to think that today’s theocrats would behave any more admirably.”

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    mram says:

    I always thought churches got their tax exempt status for keeping religion out of politics, but since they have obviously voided the agreement they should lose their tax exempt status, but we have few politicians willing to go against them and that is a damned good reason to vote for politicians willing to take on the christinsanity factions.

  2. 2
    nomoreGOP says:

    You are absolutely right mram – If you go to the IRS website and pull up form 13909 – Department of the Treasury — Internal Revenue Service
    Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form – Section #3 lists possible “violations” that a Tax-Exempt group can be reported for. Numbers 4 and 5 of that list are:
    4- Organization is involved in a political campaign.
    5-Organization is engaged in excessive lobbying activities
    It is a direct and blatent violation, yet never talked about or investigated. I only know about this because I have been involved in a campaign to have the Church of Latter Day Saints Tax Exempt status revoked due to their support of Proposition 8 here in California. The Mormons ran into this same situation back in the 70’s..
    African Americans were excluded from temple rites in the Mormon Church until 1978, when church leaders received a new revelation from God to end the practice of racial discrimination, a “revelation” that came just as the IRS was threatening to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status.

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    nomoreGOP — good luck on the LDS campaign.  But I think you will find that they followed the letter of the law in not commingling funds.    Frankly, if anyone shook the “churches getting involved in political capaigns” tree hard enough, a lot of black churches would have fallen out last year.  And a lot of black and Latino churches in CA working against Prop 8.  I bet they were not as precise about funds as the Mormons would have been.

  4. 4
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Churches have been involved in politics in this country since before this country was a country. It may be ‘against the law’, but I don’t expect to see it change. Nor do I expect to see a big spate of churches losing their tax exempt status, first of all because most Democratic politicians are themselves pretty religious and second because the Democratic Party is very skittish about doing anything that requires real guts if they think it will lend credence to Republican claims about how they are ‘liberal’ or ‘anti-religion.’
     
    I do think something should be done, but I don’t expect to see it done. Churches and politics just go together too much on the both conservative and liberal sides of the debate. It’s not just the righteous right. Ever noticed how many Democratic leaders from urban districts have a ‘Reverend’ attached to their name?
     
    Separating God and politics is even harder than separating church and state, the former have been intertwined very tightly even when we’ve done a good job of keeping the latter more separate than they appear today.
     

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