Study: Generational changes cause drop in US support for school prayer


There’s a saying that goes, “as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools.” At one time, that likely reflected a fairly uniform view about school prayer: that despite what federal law said about the practice, religious Americans by and large approved of it. A new study, however, paints a more complicated picture of attitudes toward school prayer over the last four decades, finding sharp differences in school-prayer support between different generations and their religious denominations.

Forthcoming in the journal Sociological Forum, the study maps a general decline in advocacy for school prayer starting in the mid-1970s and accelerating as skeptical Baby Boomers became ascendant through the 1980s. According to the study’s findings, school-prayer support remains markedly lower today among Catholics and mainline Protestants yet unwaveringly high among their evangelical counterparts.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Philip Schwadel modeled data from the General Social Survey from 1974-2010 and created a measure for Americans’ support for prayer and reading of religious scripture in public schools over the decades. The results tracked the impact of religious affiliation and generational differences on the role of religion in public education, he said.

“Social and cultural changes have led to greater opposition to state-sanctioned prayer and reading religious materials in public schools among some segments of the population,” Schwadel said. “Specifically, there’s growing opposition among non-evangelicals but not evangelicals, and these changes manifest across generations.”

While these generational shifts have spurred changes among some denominations, evangelical Protestants have remained staunchly pro-school-prayer over the years, Schwadel said. As other religious denominations faced generationally influenced fluctuations on the topic, evangelicals persisted — more than 70 percent of evangelicals expressed support for school prayer, regardless of what generation they came from.

Written By: e! Science News
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  1. In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

    “What’s with that blood vessel on the outer edge of the left hand in the photo ?”

    The sculptor was relying on ‘inner truth’ perhaps, without reference to a life model, which is a dependable way of producing inferior work. QED.

  2. statistics are awsome. the news is full of religious mouthpieces telling us loudly what everyone wants then studies show them up for what they are.

    religious assertions are a modern Rumpelstiltskin tale, currently in the loud angry stamping phase

  3. In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

    What’s with that blood vessel on the outer edge of the left hand in the photo ? I am no physician, but I doubt that is anatomically correct. Perhaps the conduit for the lightning rod ? After all, we know what happens…..

    Heh… it’s in Missouri, of course, where the Garden of Eden was. I couldn’t find what the hands are made of, but they weigh a bunch so maybe they’re not styrofoam and fiberglass. The site is designated “non-smoking”, however!


  4. fyi – that statue in in southern Missouri. Gently beautiful part of the state – shame that
    someone with delusions + money ruined that otherwise pretty view.

  5. Rod the farmer

    I love that touchdown jesus statue that ended up in flames. Wonderful! The burning image bears an uncanny likeness to the devil, complete with horns, running in flames. In fact it would make a most excellent Dio album cover. (Except Dio is dead…)

    And try this one, for an Islamic take on the proceedings:

    (The lighting of the real king of kings ( Allah almighty) destroys jesus statue)



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