Donald Trump’s controversial and shifting plan to ban Muslims from entering the country has received widespread criticism from religious leaders over the past few months.
But according to a newly released survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, there’s one religious group in the country whose members are more likely to believe such a blatantly discriminatory ban is a good idea ― white Protestant Christians.
PRRI’s 2016 American Values Survey, found that a majority of white evangelical Protestants (62 percent) and white mainline Protestants (54 percent) favored temporarily banning Muslims from other countries coming to the United States.
White Catholics were divided on the proposed policy, with 48 percent reporting that they were supportive and 49 percent opposing.
On the other hand, Christians of color ― who are increasingly accounting for larger shares of the American Christian population as a whole ― appeared to reject the ban. A majority of black Protestants (68 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (62 percent) rejected the ban. Members of non-Christian religions and religiously unaffiliated Americans were even more strongly opposed (70 percent and 74 percent, respectively).
Overall, most Americans (56 percent) rejected the policy of temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country, while 43 percent said they supported the idea.
Catherine Orsborn, campaign director of the anti-Islamophobia coalition Shoulder to Shoulder, told The Huffington Post that most of America’s mainline Protestant denominations and a number of evangelical groups have pledged to work with her campaign to find ways of addressing anti-Muslim sentiment in their congregations. On a grassroots level, she’s heard from many white Christians who want to show their support. But she said there’s a lot of work left to do, particularly around the issue of race.
“Anti-Muslim bigotry is a religious issue, yes, but it is also an issue of racial bias and discrimination, which is why I think there is a pretty clear racial divide in these numbers,” Orsborn told The Huffington Post in an email. “White Christian privilege is something that many white Christians are beginning to recognize, but this self-reflection is unfortunately not very widespread. Those who have had less experience with overt or systemic discrimination are often less aware of it, and I think these numbers reflect that reality. “
“White Christian privilege is something that many white Christians are beginning to recognize, but this self-reflection is unfortunately not very widespread.”
In addition, the survey found that America’s religious groups have different views about how American culture and way of life has changed since the 1950s.
White Christians were more likely than any other religious group to say the cultural changes have been bad for the country. In particular, a strong majority of white evangelical Protestants (74 percent) said American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s. That sentiment was shared by 59 percent of white mainline Protestants and 57 percent of white Catholics.
Conversely, black Protestants (60 percent), Hispanic Catholics (65 percent), members of non-Christian religions (66 percent) and the unaffiliated (66 percent) said that America has actually changed for the better.
Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical leader, told The Huffington Post that white Christians’ attitudes about the Muslim ban and about America’s cultural trajectory are actually symptoms of a broader problem.
“Islamophobia is part of the larger problem of white Christians in America acting more ‘white’ than ‘Christian.’”
For Wallis, these protectionist and pessimistic attitudes about America are actually reflective of a fear among white Christian Protestants that they are losing the prominence they’ve enjoyed in this country since its founding.
“Islamophobia is part of the larger problem of white Christians in America acting more ‘white’ than ‘Christian.’ ‘Make America Great Again’ really means ‘Make America White Again,’ because in the 1950s brutal racial segregation was the rule,” Wallis told HuffPost in an email. “It represents the fear of the emerging demographic reality in this country – that by 2040, the United States will be a ‘majority of minorities.’”
“The Church has got to help people not just accept the new multicultural reality, but to welcome it and celebrate it.”
The 2016 American Values Survey was conducted among a sample of 2,010 Americans between September 1 and 27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.