Liberal congregations are more politically active than conservative ones, study says

by Jordyn Pair · Sep 21st, 2020 1:51 pm
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Last Updated Sep 22nd, 2020 at 11:29 am

Liberal congregations, particularly historically black churches, are more politically engaged than their counterparts, according to a new study of more than 1,200 churches in the United States.

"Overall, it seems that, since 2012 and possibly since 1998, the political mobilization of congregations on the left has increased more than the political mobilization of congregations on the right," wrote Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religious studies, and divinity at Duke University, and Kraig Beyerlein, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, in a paper for the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The study — which was launched in 1998 and had follow-ups in 2006-2007, 2012, and 2018-2019 — found that 49% of the congregations engaged in at least one political activity, up from 41% in 1998.

It also found that 4% of congregations endorsed political candidates, even though doing so could put their tax-exempt status at risk, and that 17% of congregations that had not endorsed candidates said they would if the tax law was changed.

Among black churches, 28% said they would endorse political candidates if the law was changed, while only 11% of white evangelical congregations said they would.

Trump has repeatedly said he would do away with the Johnson Amendment, a part of tax law that prohibits nonprofits from endorsing political candidates.

"The irony is that the Trump administration was thinking they'd release all these politically active evangelicals, but in fact it would be more liberal churches that (would) more likely go that route," Chaves said.


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