by Dalia Fahmy, Pew Research, 7/17/2020.
Here are eight facts about the connections between religion and government in the United States, based on previously published Pew Research Center analyses.
While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.
Congress has always been overwhelmingly Christian, and roughly nine-in-ten representatives (88%) in the current Congress identify as Christian, according to a 2019 analysis. While the number of self-identified Christians in Congress ticked down in the last election, Christians as a whole – and especially Protestants and Catholics – are still overrepresented on Capitol Hill relative to their share of the U.S. population.
Almost all U.S. presidents, including Donald Trump, have been Christian, and many have identified as either Episcopalian or Presbyterian. But two of the most famous presidents, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had no formal religious affiliation. Most U.S. presidents have been sworn in with a Bible, and they traditionally seal their oath of office with “so help me God.”
Roughly half of Americans feel it is either very (20%) or somewhat (32%) important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, according to a survey this past February. But only around four-in-ten (39%) say it is important for a president to sharetheir religious beliefs. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say it is at least somewhat important for a president to have strong religious beliefs (65% vs 41%).
Americans are divided on the extent to which the country’s laws should reflect Bible teachings. Roughly half of U.S. adults say the Bible should influence U.S. lawseither a great deal (23%) or some (26%), and more than a quarter (28%) say the Bible should prevail over the will of the people if the two are at odds, according to the February survey. Half of Americans, meanwhile, say the Bible shouldn’t influence U.S. laws much (19%) or at all (31%).
More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) say churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. An even higher share (76%) say these houses of worship should not endorse political candidates during elections, according to a 2019 survey. Still, more than a third of Americans (36%) say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political matters. (The Johnson Amendment, enacted in 1954, prohibits tax-exempt institutions like churches from involvement in political campaigns on behalf of any candidate.)