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Study: Americans' Support for School Prayer Has Declined Since the 1970s

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP 

Recently, TheBlaze reported on the results of an online poll in which readers answered a variety of questions surrounding the presence of prayer and the Bible in public schools. These issues, which continue to be highly controversial, gained recent media attention in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

While the majority of Blaze readers support prayer in schools, it seems the phenomenon, over time, is losing public support. A new national study sheds further light on where Americans stand, showing a decrease in general support for prayer in these educational facilities.

According to Philip Schwadel, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, support for school prayer has been on the decline since the 1970s among most Americans. However, two cohorts defy these odds, as the researcher claims that evangelical Christians and older Americans have not seen a decrease in their support for public invocations.

As for evangelicals, their support for this faith-based sentiment remains steady at 71 percent. And while there has been a decrease among most Americans, including Catholics and mainline Protestant groups, old age is another exception. Among those who are 80 years of age, around 73 percent of both Catholics and evangelicals support prayer in schools; 67 percent of mainline Protestants at the same age agree.

But younger Americans in these groups showcase greater disparities. To illustrate these differences, The Christian Post highlighted some of Schwadel's results among individuals in their mid-40s. While 72 percent of these evangelicals support school prayer, only 60 percent of Catholics an 58 percent of mainline Protestants agree. Overall, Jews had the lowest level of support for school prayer (24 percent).

Schwadel believes that cultural changes have resulted in these shifting opinions. Considering the rise of the "nones" and the changing religious inclinations that are being seen among the public and political leaders, alike, these changes are not necessarily surprising.

Photo Credit: AP

"Social and cultural changes have led to greater opposition to state-sanctioned prayer and reading religious materials in public schools among some segments of the population," Schwadel wrote when describing his findings. "Specifically, there's growing opposition among non-evangelicals but not evangelicals, and these changes manifest across generations."

Schwadel spoke with The Christian Post for an interview, explaining that the rise of the so-called "Christian right" in the 1980s and 1990s may have had an unintended consequence: Turning Americans away from school prayer. The professor said that this ideal has been substantiated by his research, but he noted that, even today, all evangelical groups (even youths) overwhelmingly support prayer in schools. In fact, more than 70 percent of these Christians in each age cohort fall into this ideological category.

The school prayer results are set to be published in the Sociological Forum, an academic journal.

(H/T: Christian Post)



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