White Christians More Likely to Have Positive Views of Police Than Black, Hispanic Christians

MK Wyman / Flickr
Race influences views of US law enforcement more than religious tradition—except locally.

In the wake of high-profile police shootings over the past several years, American Christians have joined movements to pray, march, and advocate for justice. Yet whether they find themselves supporting Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, or somewhere in between depends more on their race than their particular Christian tradition.

A recent poll found that most white evangelicals, white mainline Protestants, and white Catholics agree that America’s police officers are doing their jobs well. Compared to non-white Christians—black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics—they put more confidence in law enforcement and hold more positive views of police.

These findings come from detailed data provided to CT from the Pew Research Center’s Behind the Badge report, released last month.

“These data suggest that race is more strongly associated than religion in how people view the police,” said Rich Morin, one of the report’s lead writers. “This is not particularly surprising. We see the strong influence of race on a range of views, reflecting the deep divisions along racial lines in so many areas of American life.”

A sizable majority of white Protestants (71%) said police around the country are doing an “excellent” or “good” job protecting people from crime, but fewer than half of black Protestants (45%) rated officers as high.

The racial division grew when Christians were asked to rate officers’ equal treatment of racial and ethnic groups. White evangelicals (68%) and white mainline Protestants (58%) were more than twice as likely than black Protestants (25%) to give cops a positive rating on this measure.

“African Americans, especially in under-resourced urban communities, have had a very different relationship with police departments than most white evangelical communities,” said Efrem Smith, president of World Impact, a missions and church-planting organization focused on the urban poor.

Smith pointed out that many African Americans, himself included, have been pulled over without discernible cause, harassed, or even misidentified as criminal suspects. Some Americans, including white evangelicals, have encouraged people of color to comply with law enforcement, saying if they listen they will avoid the fatal consequences suffered by people like Philando Castile and Eric Garner.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Kate Shellnutt