Americans think the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, but they overwhelmingly believe that separation is not violated by plans to include the so-called 9/11 cross in a memorial on the site of the World Trade Center.
When workers were cleaning up after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, they raised a cross-shaped steel beam they found in the rubble as a symbol of hope. An atheist group is suing to keep the 9/11 cross from being included in the memorial being built on the site, saying it violates the separation of church and state. But 72% of Americans favor including the cross in the memorial on the World Trade Center site, while just 10% are opposed. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 68% of Adults think the U.S. Constitution mandates a separation of church and state. Eighteen percent (18%) disagree and 14% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans think the separation of church and state is supposed to protect the church from the government. Thirty-two percent (32%) say it’s intended to protect the government from the church. Sixteen percent (16%) aren’t sure.
The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution but stems from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Connecticut Baptists in 1802. However, the First Amendment to the Constitution does provide protection for religious freedom by placing limits on what Congress can do. It says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Critics complain that the concept of separation between Church and state has been used to force religion out of public life.
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The national survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on July 29-30, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC . See See methodology.
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