Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

In the News (August 2020)

Vol. 37 No. 06 August 2020

‘Nones’ more accepting of homosexuality

Nones, the group of nonreligious, have a much higher tolerance for acceptance of homosexuality than religious believers. In the United States, 72 percent of people now say being gay should be accepted, but that number is even higher for the Nones, at 86 percent, according to a Pew Research survey.

However, among those in the United States who said religion was “very important” to them, only 57 percent said homosexuality should be accepted by society.

In the Pew analysis, it said, “Those who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious Nones, (that is, those who identify as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’) tend to be more accepting of homosexuality. Though the opinions of religiously unaffiliated people can vary widely, in virtually every country surveyed with a sufficient number of unaffiliated respondents, Nones are more accepting of homosexuality than the affiliated.”

Humanist weddings in Scotland more popular

Humanist weddings, which have been legal in Scotland for 15 years, are more popular than Christian ones, according to data from the National Records of Scotland.

In 2019, there were 5,879 Humanist weddings compared to 5,812 Christian weddings. In 2018, there were 6,117 Humanist weddings, but 6,258 Christian ones.

A 2017 survey found that more than 70 percent of Scottish people said they were not religious.

Southern Baptists see big drop in membership

Total membership in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination fell at a historic rate between 2018 and 2019, according to an annual report.

The Southern Baptist Convention said it had 14.5 million members in 2019, down about 287,655 from the previous year. Membership dropped 2 percent, the largest single-year drop in more than 100 years, according to a survey from LifeWay Christian Resources, the denomination’s publishing and research arm.

The decline reflects a larger trend of Americans leaving Christianity at a rapid pace. According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of Americans describe themselves as Christians, down 12 percentage points during the past decade.

Southern Baptist baptisms, a key metric in measuring new members of the faith, fell by more than 4 percent.

1 in 4 Americans see Trump as a man of faith

Only 27 percent of registered voters in a Politico/Morning Consult poll said they somewhat or strongly agree that President Trump is religious, while 55 percent somewhat or strongly disagree. Just over a third of all Christians view the president as religious (50 percent do not), while 23 percent of Catholics and 18 percent of independents see him that way.

Evangelicals were more likely to view Trump as religious: 40 percent said they agreed that he is, while 33 percent disagreed.

Ideological conservatives and Republicans were the only demographics in which a majority of respondents characterized the president as religious — 55 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

South Korean church sued for $66M over virus

The city at the epicenter of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak has filed a $83 million suit against the religious group that has been linked to nearly 62 percent of the 6,900 cases in the city.

Officials of the Daegu city government are demanding compensation for losses suffered by the local authority as a result of the leaders of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus refusing to cooperate with initial efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

The church’s refusal to cooperate with regional health authorities hampered the initial response to the crisis and worsened the outbreak in the city, an official said.

Investigators also reported that the church went ahead with services and events in defiance of an order from the local government banning mass gatherings.

Survey: Most not yet OK going back to church

A study in May examining Americans’ response to COVID-19 shows that with the exception of white evangelicals, a majority of Americans are not comfortable returning to in-person religious services.

The results of the survey suggest that despite political pressure to reopen houses of worship — from President Donald Trump as well as leading conservative Christians and religious liberty advocates — Americans aren’t quite ready to take a seat in a sanctuary.

The survey from the American Enterprise Institute showed that 64 percent of Americans said they were “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” attending in-person worship.

Even among those who reported their congregations offered in-person worship, 56 percent of respondents said they chose not to go.

“We’re seeing among lay people a significant amount of discomfort in going back to formal in-person religious practices,” said Daniel Cox, a research fellow at AEI who led the study. “People are equivocating and uncertain about whether they feel comfortable attending.”

20% in Northern Ireland identify as nonreligious

The proportion of people in Northern Ireland who identify as “nonreligious”  has reached 20 percent, according to the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

It was an increase of 3 percent over the previous year. The proportion of nonreligious people in Northern Ireland now exceeds that of every other religion or belief group except Catholics — 36 percent, with Presbyterians accounting for 18 percent and those who identify as Church of Ireland/Anglican/Episcopal at 14 percent.

Greek church: Yoga not for Christians

Yoga has no place “in the life of Christians,” the governing body of the Greek Orthodox Church has ruled.

The Church intervened after Greek media recommended yoga as a way to combat stress during the pandemic.

“[Yoga] is a fundamental chapter in Hindu religion. It is not a ‘kind of physical exercise,’” the Holy Synod said in its statement.

The church’s opposition is based on the “experience of those who practiced yoga,” Father Michael Konstantinidis said, explaining that “if yoga offered what man wanted, we would be happy.”

Evangelicals still strongly support Trump

President Trump’s approval rating has dropped among a wide range of religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants — though they remain strongly supportive.

About seven-in-10 white evangelical Protestants say they approve of the way Trump is handling his job, according to a Pew Research Center survey, but that’s a 6 percentage point drop from 78 percent recorded in April.

The same survey found that if the 2020 presidential election were held today, 82 percent of white evangelical Protestant registered voters would vote for Trump or lean toward voting for him. By comparison, a Pew survey that was conducted just after the 2016 presidential election among those who were identified as having voted found that 77 percent of white evangelical Protestant voters backed Trump.

Catholic clergy sex abuse complaints jump

The Washington Post reported that the number of allegations of Catholic clergy sex abuse of minors more than quadrupled in 2019 compared to the average in the previous five years.

The yearly audit report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the 2019 report counted 4,434 allegations of clergy sex abuse against minors. That number was 1,451 in 2018, 693 in 2017, 1,318 in 2016 and 903 in 2015.

About half of the 2019 allegations  were deemed credible by the church.

There are about 37,000 diocesan and religious order priests in the country.

In the 2019 audit, the Catholic Church paid out a total of $282 million related to those allegations, including child abuse settlements, other payments to victims, “support for offenders,” attorneys’ fees, and other miscellaneous costs related to those lawsuits.

Delaware city sued for not allowing crèche

The Knights of Columbus, backed by the First Liberty Institute, filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Rehoboth Beach, Del., claiming religious discrimination for the town’s blanket ban of a Knights of Columbus nativity scene from city property.

For decades, a free-standing crèche has been part of the Christmas holiday tradition in Rehoboth Beach. The primary location for Christmas displays is the circle at the city bandstand and adjacent boardwalk.

In 2018, after a local church placed a nativity scene on the public site, the city forced the church to take it down.

“I don’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended,” Mayor Paul Kuhns said. “We are basically saying that on public property, with public resources comes public responsibility and this [separation] of church and state is the city’s decision.”