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Study links decline of church attendance to rise of Christian Right

(Pixabay/MaLyKa)A study has suggested that the rise of the Christian Right may be a contributing factor in the decline of church membership.

A recent study has suggested that the rise of the Christian Right is partly responsible for the declining church membership in the U.S.

The report published in Political Research Quarterly in late April showed that the percentage of religious nones have increased in states where the Christian Right have gained prominence.

The study was based on data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and reports from several interest groups between 2000 and 2010.

The authors of the report contended that the major contributing factor in the decline in church membership was the "salient controversy," in which the Christian Right has been seen as "more salient to the public" because of the debate on controversial topics.

One of the examples cited by researchers was the increase in the number of people abandoning their religion in states that implemented bans on same-sex marriage.

The lead author of the study, Paul A. Djupe, said that he was taken by surprise when he found out that "the link between the presence of Christian Right organizations and the religious nones was limited to states with 'salient controversy.'"

"Since many states enacted same-sex marriage bans (and like legislation) in the mid-2000s, that means that the salient controversy was relatively widespread and was more common in somewhat redder, more conservative states," Djupe, a political science professor at Denison University, said in an interview with The Christian Post.

"So, the other surprising finding was that the difference in rates of religious nones between Republican and Democratic states narrowed across this time period (on average)," he added.

The study, co-authored by University of Wisconsin-Madison Assistant Professor Jacob Neiheisel and University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor Kimberly Horn Conger, suggested that the situation facing the Christian Right was similar to a time when membership in mainline Protestant churches declined during the 1960s due to Religious Left activism.

A study by Neiheisel and Djupe in 2014 has indicated that the Christian Right was not a significant factor in people's decision to leave churches.

The research, titled "The Choice That Matters: Politics in the Role of Leaving Congregations," also revealed that mainline Protestants are more likely than evangelicals to abandon their churches because of politics.

In May last year, the researchers published a more recent version of the study in the American Journal of Political Science.

Last March, Neiheisel suggested that the number of people departing their churches over politics was just "a little churn."

He argued at the time that politics was not the main reason behind people's decision to leave their religion. "It's demographics; it's generational; it's many other things," he said, according to University of Buffalo News Center.

Djupe noted that political disagreements is a significant factor in the decline of church affiliation, but noted that the "disagreement could be over anything and it has to be linked to dynamics within the congregation."

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