Matters of faith
When it comes to religion, it seems, both of America's major political parties face image problems. Yet Democrats may be in the most trouble. A national survey released this week shows that 45 percent of US adults say religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party, while 44 percent say nonreligious liberals hold too much sway over Democrats. But only 29 percent see Democrats as religion-friendly, a big drop from 40 percent a year ago.
Among prized independent voters, however, 54 percent are critical of religious conservatives' influence, while 43 percent disapprove of secular liberals' role.
A bare majority (51 percent) see Republicans as the party that most protects religious values, while 52 percent say Democrats are most protective of individual freedoms. Still, 67 percent charge liberals with going too far to keep religion out of schools and government. Americans are split over whether conservative Christians are going too far in trying to impose their values - 45 percent say yes and 45 percent say no. The July survey of 2,000 adults nationwide was conducted by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
As several local school boards across the United States debate the teaching of theories other than evolution, the Pew survey also reveals that while views differ greatly, 64 percent of Americans are open to the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin's theory. And 38 percent would teach creationism in place of evolution. Most Americans (78 percent) believe God created life on earth. Five percent more say a universal spirit or higher power was responsible. But Americans divide on whether humans and other living things evolved over time (48 percent) or have existed in their present form since the beginning of time (42 percent).
Of the 48 percent who believe in evolution, roughly half accept Darwin and natural selection, and 40 percent say evolution was guided by a supreme being - a view consistent with what has been called "intelligent design."
Despite the controversies in some districts, only 6 percent of parents with school-age children said their kids were made uncomfortable by being taught evolution.
After serious complaints that evangelical leaders had promoted their religion inappropriately at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Air Force this week released new religion guidelines for all commanders. They commit to constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion, discourage prayers at events other than worship services or special ceremonies, and emphasize that religious diversity is a strength. Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, special assistant to the Air Force secretary, helped write the guidelines, and concerned Jewish organizations applauded them, but emphasized that the key lies in how they are implemented.