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    Standing Up for Jews, Gays and Mexicans: Why Should You?




    The full Beyond the God Gap report is available from Public Religion Research at:
    (Washington, DC) - Seeking to overcome religious stereotypes that hinder political dialogue, two organizations
    known for their groundbreaking work on religion and public policy issues have jointly released Beyond the God
    Gap, a new roadmap for this often bewildering terrain. Based on extensive research and analysis of religious
    groups theology and culture, the report highlights several important patterns in the shifting religious landscape.
    The report found that majorities of four major religious groups favor laws protecting gay and lesbian people from
    job discrimination, and favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military. Majorities of
    mainline Protestants and Catholics support some form of legal relationship recognition (either same-sex
    marriage or civil unions), as do white evangelicals under the age of 35. The report also found that by a margin of
    approximately 2-to-1, Americans across the religious landscape support a comprehensive approach to
    immigration reform over enforcement alone.
    The report was jointly released today by Third Way, a moderate think tank, and by Public Religion Research
    (PRR), an independent research firm specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.
    According to the authors, stereotypes often dominate the way in which religion informs politics.
    The polarization of society, from the media we watch to the political debates we hear, has contributed to a
    sense that there are yawning chasms between religious and non-religious Americans, and even between
    different groups of religious Americans. But that sense of polarization often has more to do with stereotypes
    than with profound, unbridgeable differences, said the authors. We hope this report contributes to civil
    conversations on important policy issues.
    The report offers surprising and fresh insights into the beliefs and values underlying attitudes toward politics and
    cultural and domestic policy issues among white evangelical Protestants, white Mainline Protestants, African
    American Protestants, and Roman Catholics (Latino and non-Latino), which together account for about threequarters
    of the U.S. population.
    The report delves into the complexity of religious Americans worldview, providing a unique combination of indepth
    religious profiles and original analysis of polling data. The new resource provides a roadmap for
    journalists, policy advocates, public officials, and candidates who want to understand and engage religious
    Americans on cultural and domestic policy issuessuch as abortion, gay and lesbian issues, aid to the poor,
    crime, and immigration.
    We created this resource as a tool for getting beyond the stereotypes of religious groups that too often stifle
    civil discourse and potential progress on policies, said Dr. Robert P. Jones, founder and President of PRR. At
    a minimum, there are compelling reasons for policy makers to think twice before writing off particular religious
    groups because of old assumptions about evangelicals or Catholic voters. For example, a majority of young
    evangelicals support either civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples. Thats a statistic thats met with
    disbelief among many.
    Progressives often write off religious Americans and believe that they are hostile and close-minded on issues
    like abortion, gay rights, and immigration, said Jim Kessler, Vice President for Policy at Third Way. But we
    found a surprising degree of shared values that can lead to common ground. This paper is intended to provoke
    listening and dialogue instead of the mutual distrust and scorn that often separates the faithful from the secular.
    Highlights drawn from the 50-page report:
    On White Evangelicals:
    • White evangelicals are not a monolithic group marching in lockstep with the Christian Right.
    • Younger white evangelicals are less likely to identify as conservative and are more supportive of relationship
    recognition for gay and lesbian couples, with a majority (52%) supporting either civil unions or marriage for
    gay and lesbian couples.
    • White evangelicals dual beliefs that they are both part of mainstream society and a persecuted minority
    group are reflected in two competing postures: a defensive desire to protect threatened values and a more
    open posture seeking broader social reform.
    On White Mainline Protestants:
    • Mainline Protestants have moved from a bedrock of the right to a swing constituency.
    • Mainline Protestants are the religious group most supportive of abortion rights and legal protections for gay
    and lesbian people; they are also strong supporters of comprehensive immigration reform.
    • Mainline Protestants, for now, vote more conservatively than their views might suggest, supporting McCain
    over Obama 55% to 44%.
    On African American Protestants
    • African Americans break the stereotype that high levels of religiosity are always correlated with
    conservatism and identification with the Republican Party.
    • Two competing theological currents are flowing within Black denominations, congregations, and individuals
    that affect positions on culture issues: the historic accent on a social gospel that emphasizes communal
    religiosity, political engagement, and a public role of the church in addressing social and economic injustice;
    and a prosperity gospel, which emphasizes individual financial security, family, and personal fulfillment.
    • African Americans have been politically aligned with the Democratic Party since the New Deal, but there is a
    20-point gap between African Americans over 65 and those under 30 who identify with the Democratic Party
    (77% to 57%).
    On Roman Catholics
    • Two major social dynamics affect Catholicism in America. One is attrition of U.S.-born Catholics
    (approximately 1-in-10 Americans are former Catholics) and the other is immigration among Latino
    Catholics. While 29% of American Catholics overall are now Latino, among Catholics under 30, nearly equal
    numbers are Latino (45%) as non-Latino whites (47%).
    • The conservative stance of the hierarchy should not be mistaken for the stand of rank-and-file Catholics,
    whose views generally reflect, or are sometimes more progressive than, the public.
    • There are two competing theological currents in American Catholic life, one based on an ethic of life that
    emphasizes individual morality, family and the sanctity of life, and one based on Catholic Social Teaching,
    which upholds the idea of the common good. The former has built bridges between conservative Catholics
    and evangelical Protestants on abortion and gay rights issues, while the social teaching current has
    provided strong support for the labor movement and the rights and dignity of immigrants.
    Beyond the God Gap is available at Public Religion Research here.


    Is God your daddy? Does that shape your view on gay marriage?

    USA Today - July 21, 2010

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