Most Americans oppose passing a constitutional amendment declaring Christianity to be America's official religion, but nearly a third do support this (32%) and two-thirds of evangelicals support it (66%).
This sort of measure goes beyond merely privileging Christianity and straight to outright theocracy, so it's more than a little scary just how much support it receives from Americans generally and evangelical Christians in particular.
Most people probably already have the general impression that conservatives, and especially conservative Christians, have too little respect for church/state separation and are too enamored of theocratic policies. Although there are any number of polls which can provide evidence to support that impression, this poll in particular will help make that case.
Religious Groups and Christian Theocracy in America
In May, 2004, The Barna Group conducted a survey asking Americans about how Christianized they thought the United States should be. One of the questions they posed was whether they supported "a constitutional amendment to establish Christianity as the official religion of the United States." With a margin of error of +/- 2.4%, the results were:
All Adults: 32% Evangelicals: 66% Non-Evangelical Born Again: 44% Notional Christian: 25% Non-Christian Faith: 21% Atheist / Agnostic: 8% Protestant: 43% Catholic: 24%
There isn't really any good news in these numbers, at least if you are a secularist and care about secular government. None of them should be above 10-15%, that's only because you have to expect a certain number of people who don't understand the question, who are just being contrary, and/or who are plain crazy.
Even the lowest number of 8% is a bit depressing because that's the number for atheists. Are there really that many atheists who support declaring in the Constitution that Christianity is America's official religion? The same can be asked of 21% of non-Christian religious believers who think that such an amendment to the Constitution is a good idea.
Defending Theocracy in America
George Barna, Directing Leader of The Barna Group, seemed to think that these are actually good results:
"Evangelicals ... emerged as the group most fervently desirous of integrating a Christian perspective into the basic fabric of American life. The intensity of their commitment to their faith makes them a cultural lightning rod and an easy target for the media.
Their depth of commitment often earns them the label ‘extremist’ related to anything pertaining to faith and morality." ...
Almost 70 million adults favor such an amendment [to make Christianity the official religion of the United States]. That is a huge vote of confidence in the Christian faith - and a tacit statement about people’ concerns regarding the direction and lukewarm spirituality of the nation.
If nothing else, this certainly indicates that given effective leadership, American Christianity could play a larger role in shaping the norms of our culture in the future.
First, Barna's words suggest that he thinks it's unreasonable for evangelicals to be a "target for the media," but he doesn't really explain that. Why shouldn't the media target a large political, social, and religious group that wants to undo America's heritage of religious equality by having their own faith declared the only official one? Why shouldn't that be treated as "extremist"?
Second, how is it a "vote of confidence" in Christianity to declare Christianity to be the only official religion of the United States? It sounds more like a lack of confidence to me — people who are confident in their religion wouldn’t be so desperate to have that sort of stamp of approval from the government.
Barna himself accidentally reveals that one reason for getting a constitutional endorsement must be for promotion and conversions when he says that this stems from Christians' concerns about the "direction and lukewarm spirituality" of America. This is definitely not something you would do if you were confident in your own message.
George Barna look upon the idea of "effective leadership" making Christianity America's official religion as a positive thing, but I don't think anyone else should. Quite the contrary, it sounds like a frightening prospect — like something from a horror movie, in fact.