Today, I took the Pew Research Center's mini-survey on religious knowledge. The main survey's results have already been reported in many media outlets, and the results are interesting--particularly the finding that, of all religious characterizations, those reporting religious identities as Jews, Atheists/Agnosics, and Mormons had the best overall knowledge of world religions.
That finding aside, I noticed that, on the mini-survey, Question 10 asks, "According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to lead a class in prayer, or not?" The correct answer to this question is "No, not permitted," and almost 90% of respondents got that one right. However, the next question is, "According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, or not?" The correct answer to this question is "Yes, permitted." Only 23% of respondents got that one right. Those reporting their affiliation as "Jewish" or "Atheist/Agnostic" got it right at a rate of 42% and 40%, respectively, and no other group exceeded a 26% rate of correctness (achieved by White Evangelical Protestants).
Two initial thoughts: (1) I wonder whether the occasional outcries over "kicking God out of the schools" would have as much force if people broadly understood that a literary approach to the Bible, or a comparative approach to religion in general, is perfectly constitutional, and that the only thing really prohibited is the teaching of a particular religious belief as truth (either directly or obliquely, through obvious support of the belief by teachers or other authority figures). (2) I wonder what the results would be to a question (may be asked on the main survey--I don't know) to the effect of, "According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school student permitted to pray while in school, or not?" The correct answer to this question is "Yes, permitted," but I would not be surprised if most people were to get it wrong.