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A nationwide study of Protestant church pastors shows they do not have strong feelings one way or another about increasing federal funding for faith-based charity and social service programs.

The study, released Feb. 1 by Phoenix-based Ellison Research, ties its findings to President George W. Bush’s proposal to fund faith-based organizations in exchange for social services. Most currently active Protestant pastors are not willing to support this concept strongly.
Only 17 percent of ministers strongly supported the idea, while 13 percent strongly opposed it. The bulk of the pastors surveyed remained undecided. Among the pastors who did not have a strong attitude toward the idea of faith-based funding, 46 percent offered weak support for it and 24 percent offered weak opposition.
“We will undoubtedly hear from individual pastors or religious leaders who feel strongly that federal money should flow into faith-based programs, as well as from individuals who feel very strongly that it shouldn’t happen,” said Ron Sellers, director of Ellison Research. “These strong opinions represent the minority of all ministers.”
Seventy-two percent of the youngest ministers supported the idea of faith-based funding, compared to 54 percent of the pastors in their sixties and older.
Pentecostal and charismatic ministers affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals were one of the few groups offering definite opinions on either side of the issue. Eighty-two percent supported the increased funding, including 33 percent of those who supported it strongly.
The study was conducted independently last spring, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. It was conducted in all 50 states among 518 pastors.
“I doubt that [pastors’ views] changed since last spring,” said Sellers. “Attitudes don’t change quickly.”
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.

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