By Paul A. Djupe
The coronavirus pandemic has raised a number of difficult questions concerning personal freedoms and public safety, with religion front and center. Should congregations continue to gather in person for worship and other social functions? Can the state restrict religious organizations from fully free functioning?
In recent cases in Louisiana and Florida, these issues have come to hinge on a pastor’s will to defy government orders, making the question less philosophical than empirical. My colleagues Ryan Burge, Andrew Lewis and I conducted a survey of 3,100 American adults from March 23-27, asking a number of questions about their own and their congregation’s reactions to the spread of the coronavirus. (While not a randomized sample, we used Census-based quotas to construct a sample that has the same age, gender and regional spread as American adults.)
With Religion News Service’s recent publication of a map detailing where bans on religious gatherings are in effect, we can attach our survey to try to estimate the extent of this important public dilemma.
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