A new Pew Research Center survey finds that U.S. adults overwhelmingly say houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations or businesses in their local area. About eight-in-ten Americans (79%) take this position, four times the share who think houses of worship should be allowed more flexibility than other kinds of establishments when it comes to rules about social distancing (19%).
On this question, Americans seem to align with two recent Supreme Court orders, which rejected lawsuits claiming that state restrictions on worship violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. At the same time, many state and local governments have carved out exemptions for religious institutions from pandemic-related restrictions.
Among U.S. Christians, about three-quarters say churches should be subject to the same rules as other businesses. Evangelical Protestants express the most support for giving houses of worship more flexibility, but even in this group, a 62% majority says houses of worship should be held to the same standards as other businesses and organizations (see Chapter 1 for more details). And while Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party are substantially more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say houses of worship should be required to follow the same social distancing rules as other organizations, a two-thirds majority of Republicans also express this view.
As for Catholics in particular:
Among those who attend religious services, mainline Protestants and members of the historically Black Protestant tradition are more likely than Catholics and evangelical Protestants to say they think their congregations should be closed. Most Catholics and evangelicals think their churches should be open, albeit with restrictions in place. Similar patterns are reflected in the current operating status of churches across these Christian traditions.
…Majorities of regularly attending evangelical Protestants (75%) and Catholics (59%), along with 56% of mainline Protestants, say they feel safe attending church right now. Protestants in the historically Black tradition and Hispanic Catholics, meanwhile, are more evenly divided between those who are confident it is safe to return to in-person services and those who are not.
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