Most Americans believe churches should follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations or businesses in their area, a new Pew Research Center survey found. About eight in 10 Americans take this position, four times the percentage who think houses of worship should be allowed more flexibility than other kinds of establishments when it comes to rules about social distancing.
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 percent majority says houses of worship should be held to the same standards as other businesses and organizations
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.
In addition, amid reports that some clusters of the virus have been tied to religious gatherings, many Americans who regularly attend religious services express support for instituting a variety of restrictions and modifications at their own places of worship. At the time the survey was conducted, only 13 percent said their house of worship should be open to the public just as it was before the outbreak.
Other polls have found that the problem isn’t churches following prescribed rules for gathering but that churches were being unfairly targeted more restrictive rules than other types of mass gatherings. In many Democrat-controlled cities and states, Churches were given less freedom of assembly than bars and protests.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice