After digging the data from Pew for my previous post on atheism and non-religion in Puerto Rico, I decided to dig a bit deeper. I found more interesting pieces of information about the state of secularism in Puerto Rico. By secularism I mean not just the religious identification of people, but also their attitudes about religion and politics, as well as morality and public policy. The information can be divided in 3 types: good, bad, and ugly.
A majority of Puerto Ricans think the government should stay out of religion and that religious leaders should stay away from politics. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) think that “religion should be kept separate from government policies.” Of course, this is something that elected officials have not been very good at, with the main example being the issue of susbtance abuse treatment I alluded to in my previous post.
Another hopeful sign is that a majority think that “religious leaders should not have an influence in politics.” This means that most people probably don’t like the many religious ceremonies often endorse or attended by elected officials.
In an unrelated note, though important for education policy. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Puerto Ricans believe humans and other animals have evolved over time. This is encouraging, given the prevalence of religious schools, especially those run by Pentecostal ministries.
Those are the good news, now the bad. In terms of views on social policy, even if most Puerto Ricans are religion/government separationists, their views on morality are very conservative. Take the example of same-sex marriage. While it is now legal, thanks to the Supreme Court recent decision, at the time of polling last year only one-third (33 percent) favored allowing people of the same sex to marry legally.
The patterns of support among religious groups are predictable. Similar to what scholars find among religious groups in the United States, as this post by Public Religion Research Institute shows, Puerto Rican Protestants are the least supportive. Only 1-in-5 (20 percent) Protestants favor same-sex marriage. The percentage of Catholics in favor of same-sex marriage is nearly twice that of Protestants (39 percent) but still low. Even the religious nones in Puerto Rico are not fully in favor of same-sex marriage. Just under half (49 percent) of Puerto Rican nones favor same-sex marriage, a percentage much lower than the more than three-quarters of nones favoring same-sex marriage in the United States.
Support for same-sex marriage is low and so are the views on the morality of same-sex relationships. More than 6-in-10 (62 percent) say that same-sex relationships are immoral. Still opposition to same-sex marriage not as high as opposition to abortion. About three-quarters (77 percent) of Puerto Ricans consider abortion should be illegal and that abortion is immoral (74 percent).
Puerto Rican secularism needs to evolve. There are some positive signs regarding attitudes toward religion and government. However, religious belief is likely behind attitudes on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Fortunately, religion is not a large factor affecting belief in evolution. Another silver lining on social attitudes is that the vast majority do not think contraception use is immoral. The nones should take the positive signs and use them to change Puerto Rican politics and society harnessing those positive attitudes on religion/government separation.