A growing number of Americans are embracing the description of "Christian nationalist." Some argue there should be a distinct separation between church and state, and others have rebuked the label, calling it dangerous to the country.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, most U.S. adults believe America's founders intended the country to be a Christian nation. The survey also found varied views of what it means to be a "Christian nation" and to support "Christian nationalism."
Many supporters define it as the idea that Christian values guide the country. Those against the descriptor are inclined to say that laws explicitly enshrine religious teachings in a Christian nation.
Six in 10 adults and 7 in 10 Christians say the founders originally intended for the U.S. to be Christian. Almost half — 45% — of adults, including 6 in 10 Christians, believe the country should be a Christian nation. A third believe America is now a Christian nation.
However, most of the public has reservations about the intermingling of religion and government. A full 77% say churches and worship houses should not endorse political candidates; 67% say religious institutions should keep out of politics.
The definition of Christian nationalism is where answers get a bit more dicey.
Some believe it's where a nation's laws are based on Christian tenets, with the nation's leaders being Christian. It is much more likely that those who hold that belief see the laws as more broadly guided by Christian values or a belief in God, even if the laws do not explicitly endorse the religion.
Leaders are also afforded a reprieve not to embrace Christianity. Others believe a Christian nation is one with the majority of the population being Christian.
Only 28% said the U.S. should be a Christian nation and that the federal government should declare the U.S. a Christian nation; 52% said the federal government should never declare any religion as the official religion.
A quarter said the federal government should advocate Christian religious values, and 52% said the government should advocate for moral values that people of many faiths share.
Eight in 10 people who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation also say the Bible should influence U.S. laws, including 54% who say when the Bible conflicts with the people, the Bible wins out.
About a third who favor a Christian nation say the diversity of religions in America weakens society, while 28% say it strengthens it.
Those against Christian nationalism who refer to it as "strict," "controlling," "racist," "bigoted," or "exclusionary" to those of other faiths represent 21%.
The survey found that nearly half of respondents have never heard of Christian nationalism, while 17% have heard some, 9% have heard it quite a bit, and 5% have heard a great deal about it. Altogether, 45% said they had heard of Christian nationalism. Among those, the opinion leaned toward unfavorable.
With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Pew found 42% believe the Supreme Court is acting in the interest of Christians in the states. Forty-four percent said Supreme Court justices relied too heavily on their religious beliefs to make decisions.
The survey also found religion is gaining momentum in American life, and the share of those who say it's harder to be a person of faith declined from 54% in 2014 to 47%. At 74%, those unaffiliated with a religious belief say their side has been "losing."
Republicans and Democrats agreed that the Republican Party is more friendly toward religion. The difference lies in the perceptions of each party. Most Democrats believe their party is neutral to religion, while 61% of Republicans say the Democratic Party is unfriendly toward religion.
A full 76% of Republicans say the founders intended for the U.S. to be a Christian nation, compared to roughly half of Democrats. Republicans also lean toward utilizing the Bible's influence over laws.
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