About half of Americans are ready for separation of church and state when it comes to weddings, a LifeWay Research survey shows.
Six in 10 say the government should not define or regulate marriage.
And more than a third of Americans — and about a quarter of Protestant pastors — say clergy should get out of the civil marriage business.
Those are among the findings of two new studies from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said Americans disagree about the meaning of marriage.
“In many countries,” he said, “there’s a split between civil marriage and religious marriage. In the United States, those two aspects have been combined. That’s led to some tension, as American views about marriage change.
“Christians tend to see marriage as a sacred covenant between God, the church, and the couple being married,” he said. “Many others see marriage as a contract that ties the couple together in the eyes of the state. It appears Americans are divided on how to reconcile these differences.”
Researchers asked 2,000 Americans and 1,000 Protestant senior pastors about their views on civil and religious marriage in surveys conducted September 11 to October 5, 2014.
LifeWay Research found Americans are skeptical about the government’s role in marriage.
Six in 10 (59 percent) disagree with the statement, “Marriage should be defined and regulated by the state.” About a third (36 percent) agree. Five percent are not sure.
Those who identify as Christians (37 percent) are more likely to agree than the nonreligious (30 percent.) Evangelicals are less likely to disagree (55 percent).
About half of Americans favor a split between civil and religious marriage.
Forty-nine percent agree with the statement, “Religious weddings should not be connected to the state’s definition and recognition of marriage.” About four in 10 (41 percent) disagree. Ten percent are not sure.
Men (54 percent) are more likely to agree, as are those over 65 (40 percent).
Catholics (53 percent) are more likely to agree than Protestants (45 percent). Evangelicals are less likely to agree (44 percent.)
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SOURCE: Baptist Press