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Many religious leaders not taking position on war, Pew poll finds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Only 17 percent of people who attend religious services at least once a month say their religious views have influenced their opinion on the war with Iraq, the latest Pew poll has found.

Fifty-seven percent of that group says their pastor or religious leader has spoken about the war, with 34 percent of clergy taking no position on the war, 7 percent supporting it and 14 percent opposing it. Forty-one percent said their clergyman has not spoken about the war.

The findings were taken from a subgroup of a poll of 1,032 adults conducted March 13-16 by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Only 39 percent of those polled said they attended religious services of any kind at least once a week. Pew’s research did not tell how this specific group viewed the war. Instead, “regular” religious service-goers were defined as those who attended at least “once or twice” a month.

Eighty-eight percent of those polled identified a religious preference of any type (Christian, Islam, Jewish, etc). Of those with a religious preference, 42 percent described themselves as “born again or evangelical” Christians.

Among the poll’s other findings:

— Among evangelical Protestants — which in the poll could have included everything from Baptists to Jehovah’s Witnesses — 57 percent said their pastor has spoken about the war. Thirty-seven percent of pastors took no position on the war, 15 percent supported it and 3 percent opposed it.

— Among mainline Protestants, 52 percent said their clergy addressed the war. Forty-three percent took no position, 1 percent supported it and 7 percent opposed it.

— Including the entire sample, 77 percent of the public said that war is sometimes morally justified, compared to 12 percent who said war is never morally justified.

— Forty-one percent of the entire sample said the media most influences their views on the war. This was followed by personal experience, 16 percent; education, 11 percent; religious beliefs, 10 percent; and friends and family, 7 percent.

— Thirty-three percent of all those polled say the opinions of religions leaders have had at least a “great deal” or “some” influence on their views. Only 7 percent said the opinions of Hollywood celebrities has had a great deal or some influence.

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  • Michael Foust