Nearly half of evangelicals say their church is back open with no COVID restrictions: Pew

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Roughly half of church-going evangelical Protestants are now attending worship services in person and without any COVID-19-related restrictions, a new survey by Pew Research Center suggests.

Forty-nine percent of evangelical Protestant congregants — those who say they typically attend services at least once or twice a month — say that their churches are open without any coronavirus-related restrictions, according to the new Pew survey.

The resumption of in-person services appears to be highest among evangelicals, as only 20% of mainline Protestants say their churches are open. The percentage drops to 14% among congregants in the historically black Protestant tradition and 19% among Catholics.

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"Among religious attenders, evangelical Protestants, white (non-Hispanic) Americans and Republicans are considerably more inclined than others to say their congregations should be open without pandemic-related restrictions," the survey report says.

The study also shows that a clear majority of overall American congregants ( 64%) have actually gone to their place of worship in person in the past month, "the first time that has been the case in three surveys conducted since the pandemic began," the survey adds.

Only 6% now say their congregation is closed entirely for in-person services, down from 31% who said this in July 2020 and 17% earlier this year.

Pew also asked American congregants about their confidence in their clergy to provide guidance on the coronavirus vaccines.

The survey report shows: "Almost two-thirds of Protestants in the historically black tradition (64%) say their clergy have encouraged people to get the vaccine, much higher than the share of Catholics (42%), mainline Protestants (42%) and evangelical Protestants (21%) who say they have received the same kind of encouragement from their leaders."

While a small portion of evangelical Protestant clergy have encouraged congregants to get the vaccine, "just 4% of evangelicals say they have heard their clergy discourage the vaccine," the report says, adding that "more than half of U.S. congregants (54%) and nearly three-quarters of evangelical churchgoers (73%) say their clergy have not said much about COVID-19 vaccinations either way."

Pews says the study shows that religious attendees express more trust in their clergy on this issue than they do in state elected officials, local elected officials or news media. "Among the options presented by the survey, only primary care doctors rank above clergy in the share of U.S. congregants who have at least 'a fair amount' of trust in each group to provide guidance on vaccines."

In July, an NBC News poll asked Americans about their vaccination status and found that 59% of white evangelicals, a group long portrayed as hesitant to take the vaccine, had been fully vaccinated.  

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