In Church-State Culture Wars, Jews More Liberal Than Christians
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In Church-State Culture Wars, Jews More Liberal Than Christians

Those who worship on Saturdays rather than Sundays are far more likely to believe that businesses should be required to provide wedding services to same-sex couples, that employers should be required to offer health plans that pay for birth control and that people should be allowed to use whatever public restroom best matches their gender identity.

Those are the findings of “Where the Public Stands on Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination,” the latest study issued by the Pew Research Center. The study, which only polled Jews and Christians, found that Jews are far more likely than Evangelicals, Catholics or Protestants to hold liberal views on these three controversial issues. In fact, on questions that pit civil rights against religious liberty Jews poll far closer to the views of people who are religiously “unaffiliated” than to their Christian counterparts.

The Pew study, the center’s first on these issues, found that:

n The vast majority of Jews (78 percent) believe that employers should be required to provide health insurance that covers birth control. This is much closer to the views of the religiously unaffiliated (83 percent), than “white Evangelicals” (44 percent), “white mainline” Protestants (71 percent), “black Protestants” (70 percent) or Catholics (65 percent).

n Jews believe that businesses “should be required” to provide wedding services to same-sex couples by a majority of 64 percent, falling just one point ahead of the unaffiliated rate (65 percent), and far ahead of white Evangelicals (22 percent), black Protestants (46 percent), white mainline Protestants (42 percent) or Catholics (54 percent).

n The vast majority of Jews (73 percent) believe that people should be allowed to use a public restroom that matches their gender identity, even if that differs from the gender assigned to them at birth. In this question they are even ahead of the unaffiliated (70 percent), while again polling considerably farther from white Evangelicals (27 percent), black Protestants (47 percent), white mainline Protestants (51 percent) and Catholics (47 percent).

The study’s findings for the 148 Jewish respondents – among a national total sample size of 4,538 – have a margin of error of 13.2 percent, it stated.

The survey’s results are consistent with the centers past studies on a wide range of social and political issues, said Jessica Martinez, a Pew Center senior researcher.

“If you think about these issues as matters of potential discrimination,” she said, “it’s not surprising” that many Jews, members of a religious group that has historically been subject to discrimination, would be “more sensitive” to the issue.

While Orthodox Jews would be expected to hold more conservative views on issues that pit government-protected individual rights versus traditional religious restrictions, the small sample of surveyed Jews did not allow for a breakdown of specific denominations, she said.

About 15 percent of American Jews identify as Orthodox.

It is likely that most of the Jews who participated in the survey are “liberal and secular,” who would predictably hold progressive views, said Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Washington-based Advocacy Center.

“I would expect that the number” in favor of mandatory health insurance for birth control, and backing wedding services for same-sex couples “would be far different for Orthodox Jews,” said Marc Stern, the American Jewish Committee’s general counsel.

“The one that would be hardest [to predict] is the birth control” issue, Stern said. While Jews on the conservative end of Orthodoxy tend to believe that Jewish law opposes abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is threatened, many on the liberal end of the Orthodox spectrum believe halacha does permit birth control in cases of physical or emotional danger, he said.

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