- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A new survey about religion and politics shows that Americans disapprove of Catholic Church leaders withholding Holy Communion from pro-choice Catholic politicians by almost a three-to-one ratio, or 64 percent to 22 percent.

But the telephone poll also revealed that evangelical Protestants sided with Catholic bishops more than Catholics did.

Although evangelicals still disapproved (47 percent to 35 percent) of withholding Communion, 72 percent of all Catholics disapproved of denying the sacrament to Catholic politicians whose views on abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia run contrary to church teachings.

“I’m not surprised,” said Richard Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals’ vice president for governmental affairs. “I’ve always suspected many Catholics are far more susceptible to the temptations of the soft side of religion than evangelicals. Evangelicals are exhibiting a certain theological rigor here.”

The poll, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press from Aug. 5 to 10, surveyed 1,512 adults and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

The Communion issue has gained national significance with the nomination of Sen. John Kerry, who is Catholic, as the Democratic presidential nominee. Since February, nearly two dozen Catholic bishops have suggested or insisted that pro-choice Catholic politicians not take Communion in their dioceses.

More Americans see the Republican Party as the most religion-friendly political party, according to the poll, but increasing numbers support embryonic stem-cell research, an issue that has split the Republican Party, according to a new poll.

A little more than half of those polled (52 percent) said they approved of such research, which destroys cloned human embryos to cull their stem cells.

In a March 2002 Pew survey, just 43 percent approved of such research.

The shifts in opinion toward stem-cell research were highest among mainline Protestants (up 14 points); white Catholics (up 12 points); those with moderate religious commitment (15 points); conservative and moderate Democrats (14 points); and liberal Democrats (17 points).

Conservative Republicans polled only 35 percent in favor of stem-cell research, a topic raised during national mourning after the death of former President Ronald Reagan in June.

Nancy Reagan and son Ron Reagan favor stem-cell research, which they said could have alleviated Mr. Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. Reagan’s other son, Michael Reagan, released a statement saying he and his late father opposed such research.

Survey results also showed a large majority of the public (72 percent to 23 percent) believe it’s proper to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings. More Republicans (86 percent) than Democrats (64 percent) agreed, and secularists were divided — 45 percent for and 48 percent against.

President Bush is seen as the far more religious of the two candidates, with 64 percent saying religion influences his policy-making “a great deal” or “a fair amount,” compared with 43 percent who said the same of Mr. Kerry.

Forty-six percent said Mr. Kerry’s religion would influence him “not very much,” as opposed to 28 percent who thought that about Mr. Bush, who is Methodist.

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