January 4, 2001

What Difference Does Faith Make?

Americans Speak On The Intersection of Faith and Public Life

At a time when the president-elect is convening meetings of faith leaders to discuss church-state partnerships and assembling the first ever White House office on faith-based action, Americans have mixed views about the proper relationship between religion and public affairs, according to a new study by Public Agenda. Public Agenda’s wide-ranging survey explores American perspectives on religion in politics, the schools, and social settings, and includes special findings on the views of journalists, office-holders, evangelical Christians, Jewish and non-religious Americans.

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Mary Schultz
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The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life will present a press briefing on the survey on January 10, 2001 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at The Brookings Institution. Public Agenda’s President, Deborah Wadsworth and Director of Research, Senior Vice-President Steve Farkas will present both the data and resulting report. A panel moderated by Forum Co-Chair E.J. Dionne, Jr. will discuss Americans’ religious and political perspectives in the context of this new data.

Panelists will include Andrew Kohut, Director of The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press; Michael J. Sandel, Professor of Government at Harvard University; Matthew Spalding, Director of Lectures and Educational Programs at the Heritage Foundation; and Rev. Eugene Rivers, 3rd, Co-Chair of the National TenPoint Leadership Foundation and a participant at last month’s meeting of religious leaders in Austin with President-elect Bush.

“This past election season and some policies of the incoming administration have served as catalysts for new discussions about religion and politics and the appropriate ways for religious organizations and the government to cooperate in the provision of social services,” says Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the Forum. “Public Agenda’s report and this event provide a timely opportunity to share perspectives about these and other questions of religion and public life.”

The study was conducted with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life seeks to promote a deeper understanding of how religion shapes the ideas and institutions of American society. The Forum bridges the worlds of scholarship, public policy and journalism by creating a platform for research and discussion of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Forum is co-chaired by E.J. Dionne, Jr. of the Brookings Institution, and Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, and Melissa Rogers serves as the Executive Director. The Forum is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts through a grant to Georgetown University.