The intersection of tea party and religion

Published: Friday, March 18 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

The same tea party that elicits such staunch support from white evangelical Christians is also anathema to Jews, black Protestants and atheists, according to a recent survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Pew reports that 44 percent of white evangelicals agree with the tea party movement while only 8 percent disagree (48 percent are indifferent). Conversely, voters are significantly less likely to profess support for the tea party if they are Jewish (15 percent agree, 49 percent disagree), African-American Protestants (7 percent agree, 37 percent disagree) or atheists (12 percent agree, 67 percent disagree).

The study further reveals that tea party supporters are much more likely than the average voter to list religion as the determinative factor for their stances on major social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Robert Jones, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, blogged on the Huffinton Post that the new Pew results confirm the findings of PRRI's American Values survey from the fall of 2010.

"The Tea Party rank and file are not in fact secular libertarians but are social conservatives largely drawn from the ranks of the Christian Right," Jones writes.

Over at The Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer ruminates that the tea party's "religious inspiration" is bad news.

"There's nothing new about the religious right's drive for political power, which helped sweep Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980, when liberal stalwarts were swept out of the Senate," Kaminer asserts. "What does seem new is the increased dominance of the Republican Party by sectarian religious extremists and their acquisition of power during a prolonged economic crisis and even longer war — a period marked by national pessimism, fear of terror, and a bipartisan assault on civil liberty unprecedented in its scope (thanks to technology) if not its intentions. In other words, what's worrisome is our vulnerability, susceptibility to demagoguery, and diminishing margin of error. We don't have time for the unexamined certitudes of religious zealotry."

CNN's Belief Blog also had thoughts on the new Pew findings.

"The Tea Party hardly claims to be a religious movement — it mostly advocates for smaller government and lower taxes," Belief Blog co-editor Dan Gilgoff states. "But feelings about the movement correlate to affiliation with certain religious groups, according to new survey data from the Pew Research Center."

e-mail: jaskar@desnews.com

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E-mail: jaskar@desnews.com

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