Is the separation of church and state really in the country's best interest? More Americans think perhaps not.
While 72 percent of the public thinks the influence religion plays in American life is waning, 56 percent say that isn't good, and an increasing number support more religion in the political realm, according to a Pew Research study released Monday.
Nearly half of Americans think churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship should be more involved in politics, sharing their views on issues of the moment. And a growing number—32 percent—believe churches should be able to endorse political candidates.
Because of these organizations' tax-exempt status, pastors, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders can't tell worshippers who to vote for. But they've long aided in get-out-the-vote efforts. Churches often serve as polling places, and in states where early voting on the Sunday before an election is available, many have organized "Souls to the polls" events, encouraging congregations to vote after services and even busing worshippers to polling places. Black and Hispanic voters are more likely to take advantage of these efforts, Politifact found.
Political parties and activists are already looking to use religion to help them in the midterms. In an effort to get African Americans to the polls in key battleground states this November, the Congressional Black Caucus launched a campaign Sunday to promote voter outreach and explain why it's especially important to vote in the midterms. Aimed at 3,000 black churches across the country, the Freedom Sunday campaign has also given pastors "tool kits" to help them work the importance of voting into sermons.
In Wisconsin, activists have taken to the pulpit to break down the state's voter ID law, which was reinstated earlier this month. The group Citizen Action explains to Milwaukee-area congregations exactly what's needed to vote in the fall.
Americans are increasingly less religious than they were in previous generations. By being more involved in politics, houses of worship could regain their footing—and influence—on the political stage.