Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pew Survey On Religious Knowledge Shows Confusion Over Religion In Schools

The Pew Forum yesterday released the results of a survey on U.S. Religious Knowledge (Executive Summary, Full Report). The survey of 3,412 Americans asked questions about the Bible, Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, world religions, religion in public life and atheism. The groups scoring highest on the survey were atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons.  Here is the Report's summary of knowledge on church-state issues:
The survey also finds widespread confusion over the line between teaching and preaching in public schools.... [T]he single question that respondents most frequently get right is whether U.S. Supreme Court rulings allow teachers to lead public school classes in prayer. Nine-in-ten (89%) correctly say this is not allowed. But among the questions most often answered incorrectly is whether public school teachers are permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature. Fully two-thirds of people surveyed (67%) also say "no" to this question, even though the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Bible may be taught for its "literary and historic" qualities, as long as it is part of a secular curriculum. On a third question along these lines, just 36% of the public knows that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools. Together, this block of questions suggests that many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are.
The question on which respondents scored worst was identifying the religion of Maimonides. Only 8% knew he was Jewish.  Today's New York Times reports on the survey.