faith & religion


For a country with no official religion, we're pretty preoccupied with God in our policy - whether it be teaching evolution in the classroom or displaying the Ten Commandments in a courthouse. A less sexy, but no less contentious issue, is President Bush's faith-based initiative - which is being continued under Obama (WP), which some say violates the notion of ‘separation of church and state.'

Americans and religion

How religious Americans say they are (2001) (CUNY - pdf):

  • Religious: 37%;
  • Somewhat religious: 38%;
  • Somewhat secular: 6%;
  • Secular: 10%;
  • Don't know/refused to answer: 9%.

Our religious affiliations

The CUNY survey (2001)

  • 76.5 % as Christian;
  • 52% as Protestant;
  • 24.5% as Catholic;
  • 1.3% as Jewish;
  • 0.5 % as Muslim/Islamic;
  • 0.5 % as Buddhist;
  • 0.4 % as Hindu;
  • 0.3 % as Unitarian/Universalist;
  • Remaining groups: Less than 0.6% as Scientologist, Native American, Baha'I, Taoist, New Age, Eckankar, Rastafarian, Sikh, Wiccan, Deity, Druid, Santeria, Pagan, Spirtualist, or Ethical Culture;
  • 1.9% identify with an unclassified religion.

The Pew survey

  • Evangelical Protestant: 26.3%
  • Mainline Protestant: 16%
  • Latino Protestant: 2.8%
  • Black Protestant: 9.6%
  • Catholic: 17.5%
  • Latino Catholic: 4.5%
  • Other Christian: 2.7%
  • Jewish: 1.9%
  • Other faiths: 2.7%
  • Unaffiliated: 16% (includes unaffiliated believers 5.3, secular 7.5, atheists and agnostics 3.2) .

How many Americans are members of a church, synagogue or mosque (2001) (CUNY):

  • 54%

Faith based initiatives

The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was created in 2001 to head up Bush's effort to get religious organizations more involved in providing government services to the poor and needy. While the administration argued that faith-based initiatives shouldn't be left out of the government grant process, opponents warn that it's not possible to insure religious organizations aren't mixing preaching in with their services.

Federal funds going to faith based orgs (2004) WH

  • Total –

    • 2005: $2.1 billion (10.9% of all grants) WP

    • 2004: $2 billion (10.3% of all grants) WH (pdf)

    • 2003: $1.2 billion (8% of all grants) (WP).

  • Broken down (using 2004 numbers) WH

    • Health and Human Services – $681 million (6.7% of HHS grants)

    • Housing and Urban Development - $545 million (23% of HUD grants)

    • USAID - $522 million (14% of USAID grants)

    • USDA - $149 million (7% of USDA grants)

    • Department of Justice – $59 million (8% of DOJ grants)

    • Department of Labor - $34 million (19% of DOL grants)

    • Ed Department - $15 million (7% of ED grants)

Growth in federal funds - just looking at Health and Human Services

source: WH (pdf)

A different picture: A nonpartisan group, The Roundtable on Religious and Social Policy released a study (pdf) in February, 2006 showing declining funding for faith based organizations between 2002 and 2004. The White House says that RRSP's numbers are "cherry-picked." WP

How involved religious organizations are in delivering social services (with or without government funds) Urban

  • 57% of congregations (representing about 75% of all attendees) participate in delivering social services (of the roughly 300,000 congregations in the US). The kinds of services they provide:

  • Food – 33% of congregations

  • Housing/Shelter – 18% of congregations

  • Clothing – 11% of congregations

  • Other programs include: substance abuse, tutor/mentor, domestic violence, health and employment programs

How many get government help Urban

  • 3% of local congregations (roughly 9,000) receive government funding (Note: Secular charities with religious names are not included, and some receive a substantial amount of their funds from the government, including Catholic Charities and Jewish Board, with 66% and 75% of their funds, respectively, from government.)

For more nonpartisan information on Faith Based Initiatives see: The Pew Forum on Religion and Spiritual Life. The Government Accountability Office (pdf) also came out with a report on FBI in June, 2006 (we didn't read it, but GAO is as dependable as they come).

Where the facts are from:

Other sources:

Facts pulled together with Steven Cytryn. Summer 2005

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

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Your fear is valid. I do

Your fear is valid.

I do not believe the government is making everyone have Catholic views.  Many Catholic charities do not share the Gospel at all.  However, many religious organizations do have social programs that could offer faith sharing to those who are willing to participate.  The government can moniter these types of programs to see if people are being treated unjustly.  I do not believe religious organizations will discriminate against those who share the same beliefs.

dujardin | January 2, 2008 - 10:37am

government and religion

i personally think religion should not be mixed in with government. i understsand that alot of people would like to incorporate their beliefs into society on a larger scale but the fact is not everyone is of the same religion. why should we have a government based on catholic views when a number of americans are not catholic. vice versa for the other religions as well. a more practical and logical government makes more sense than one based on morals that everyone does not agree with. im a baptist and respect other religions. for this simple fact i base my opinion on.


GiZMo130 | December 18, 2007 - 9:51am