Evangelicals More in Favor of Religious Exemption Than Catholics

Last week at CPAC, Mike Huckabee, who has previously identified as a “Bapti-costal,” spread his religious wings a little further by declaring, “we are all Catholics now.” (Translation: this Southern Baptist pastor backs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in opposing the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act as a mortal threat to religious freedom.)

Now Glenn Beck (a convert to Mormonism) has picked up the Catholic ball, reports Evan McMorris-Santoro. He’s urging his radio listeners and followers to call their member of Congress in support of the Blunt Amendment (a ridiculously broad proposal which would permit any employer to refuse to provide coverage or any medical service he or she finds morally objectionable) and include in their comments, “We are all Catholics now.”

A new New York Times/CBS News poll finds 66% of respondents support the contraception coverage requirement, and 61% support requiring religiously-affiliated institutions to provide the coverage, with 57% of Catholics supporting. With the American public, the contraception coverage is very popular, and a new Gallup poll finds President Obama experienced no decline in support even among Catholics since announcing the rule.

If you wonder where Republicans think they’re finding support for legislative proposals like the Blunt amendment, a new poll out from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life makes a telling discovery: evangelicals are more opposed to requiring religious institutions to provide coverage for contraception than Catholics are.

Yes, that’s right. The evangelicals are more Roman than American Catholics.

In the Pew poll, 68% of white evangelicals said that religiously-affiliated institutions should be given an exemption from the rule, while only 55% of Catholics did. Only 22% of evangelicals believe that religiously-affiliated institutions should be required to provide the coverage like other employers; 39% of Catholics thought so.

Among Catholics, too, there are splits between the frequent mass-attenders and the infrequent ones: 63% who attend weekly thought the religious institutions should get the exemption, while only 48% of those attending less weekly thought so. Still, by five percentage points, white evangelicals favor the exemption more than even Catholics who attend mass weekly. 

Few Catholics, though, according to the Pew poll, believe the use of contraceptives to be morally wrong. Forty-two percent say it’s morally acceptable, while only 8% say it’s morally wrong; 43% say it’s not even a moral issue. Next time, I’d be very curious to have Pew pose that question to the evangelicals.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email