Protestant Majority

Is Fading Away

Protestants could cease to be the majority religious group in the United States within a year, and their numbers already may have dipped below 50 percent, a report by the National Opinion Research Center says.

From 1972, when the University of Chicago-based research center began its General Social Survey, until 1993, the Protestant share of the population remained relatively constant, at about 62 percent. It then began to decline, reaching 52.4 percent in 2002.

The study attributed the decline to, among other things, the fact that fewer children were being raised in Protestant homes in the past four decades. The share of people who said they were raised as Protestants dropped from 64.7 percent in 1972 to 55.7 percent in 2002. Among people born after 1980, less than half said they were raised Protestant, suggesting the downward trend would continue.

The study found that the retention rate for Protestants also fell over the years. In the 20 years leading up to 1993, a steady 90 percent raised in Protestant households remained Protestants as adults. The rate had dropped to less than 83 percent by the turn of the century.

Immigration is another factor that has lowered the proportion of Protestants in the United States. The study found that 24.5 percent of immigrants are Protestant, although the report said, "While it helps to sustain the current decline, it cannot explain the start of the decline in the mid-1990s or its recent rapid rate."

-- Religion News Service

Ark. Pastor Accused

Of Illegal Politicking

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service accusing an Arkansas minister of violating tax rules against endorsing candidates.

The group says that during a Fourth of July sermon, pastor Ronnie Floyd of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., showed a picture of President Bush and said, "One candidate believes that marriage is a God-ordained institution between one man and one woman and has proposed a constitutional amendment protecting marriage."

With a photograph of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), Bush's presumed Democratic opponent, on the screen, Floyd said, "The other candidate was one of only 14 U.S. senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996," according to the group's complaint. The group said Floyd later urged members to go to tables in the church and register to vote "by the authority of God's word, Christian values, convictions and beliefs. In other words, we must vote God."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a similar complaint against a Boston church whose pastor allegedly endorsed Kerry as "the next president of the United States."

-- Associated Press

Presbyterians Offend

Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League has condemned a vote by delegates to the national meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that supported divesting the church of holdings in companies that do business with Israel.

The denomination's General Assembly voted 431 to 62 to direct its corporate witness office to study the issue, modeling the action on the divestment campaign against South African apartheid two decades ago.

The ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman, and its interfaith director, Gary Bretton-Granatoor, said they were "offended and distressed" by that vote -- and by others at the meeting this month.

"To assert that there is a moral equivalency between the racist policy of apartheid and the efforts to protect the citizenry of Israel is unconscionable," the ADL leaders wrote in a letter to Presbyterian officials last week, accusing delegates of ignoring deadly attacks on Israel by suicide bombers and other security threats.

But the Rev. Victor Makari, the Presbyterian's liaison to the Mideast, said in support of divestment, "If nothing else seems to have changed the policy of Israel toward Palestinians, we need to send a clear and strong message."

The delegates also rejected a proposal that would have suspended funding to a Philadelphia "messianic" congregation that uses Jewish rituals as part of its efforts to convert Jews to Christianity. The ADL said the votes raise concerns about any interfaith dialogue between the denomination and Jewish groups.

-- Associated Press

Noise Ordinance Vote

A Victory for Mosques

Residents of Hamtramck, Mich., have upheld an amendment to the city's noise ordinance, a victory for those who favored permitting mosques to issue the call to prayer over loudspeakers.

The vote Tuesday was 1,462 to 1,200.

In April, the City Council approved the amendment after a mosque sought permission to start broadcasting Arabic chants that are traditionally issued five times a day.

The council's unanimous action prompted protests from some longtime residents of this once predominantly Polish city of 23,000 people. In recent years, the Detroit suburb has experienced a rapid increase in immigration from Yemen, Bangladesh and other nations.

The al-Islah mosque began the call to prayer in May. At least one other mosque in the city has begun using loudspeakers.

-- Religion News Service