About a week ago, at the candidate forum at Saddleback Church, the Rev. Rick Warren kicked off the event with a fairly straightforward message: "We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics."
As it turns out, a growing number of Americans disagree.
For the first time in more than a decade, a narrow majority of Americans say churches should stay out of politics, according to a poll released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The results suggest a potentially significant shift among conservative voters in particular. In 2004, 30% of conservatives said the church should stay out of politics while today 50% of conservatives today express that view.
Conservatives are now more in line with moderates and liberals when it comes to their views on mixing religion and politics. "Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared," Pew reports.
The results are encouraging, and more than a little surprising. In the decade between 1996 and 2006, Pew Forum surveys showed a stable trend -- a narrow majority of Americans wanted houses of worship to be publicly engaged in policy debates. Now, the numbers have reversed, and a narrow majority wants ministries to "stay out."
About damned time. Now, if only this trend would continue...