WASHINGTON — Fifty-four percent of Americans think churches should steer clear of politics, according to a Pew Research Center poll announced Wednesday during a presidential campaign tinged with faith issues.
Pew said it was the third consecutive poll in four years to reveal that Americans who favor churches speaking out on political and social issues are outnumbered by those who believe they should not.
Of the 1,503 adults it surveyed by telephone on March 7-11, Pew said 40 percent believed churches and other houses of worship “should … express their views on day-to-day social and political questions.”
Sixty percent of Catholic respondents said the church should keep out of political issues, according to Pew’s findings.
Early this month, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, leader of the increasingly outspoken US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church was called upon to be “very active, very informed and very involved in politics.”
With President Barack Obama up for re-election in November, the Catholic church is fiercely opposing his proposal for all employee health plans — including those at religious-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals — to cover the cost of contraceptives.
The Pew survey also found that 38 percent of Americans say there has been “too much expression of religious faith and prayer by political leaders.” Another 30 percent said there has been too little.
“The percentage saying there is too much expression … has increased across party lines, but this view remains far more widespread among Democrats than Republicans,” said Pew in a summary of its findings.
Pew, which posted full details of its research on its website (www.pewforum.org), said its survey had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.