Most Americans as well as Christians do not want to change the Johnson Amendment which states that churches must lose their tax-exempt status if they endorse any political candidates, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research published on September 8.

As many as 79 percent of Americans said that it was inappropriate for pastors to endorse any political candidate in church.

People were asked to respond to this statement: "I believe it is appropriate for pastors to publicly endorse candidates for public office during a church service."

Only 19 percent of the Americans agreed to this statement, while another two percent were not sure.

"Americans already argue about politics enough outside the church," said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. "They don't want pastors bringing those arguments into worship."

Responses to this statement varied slightly across the denominational lines. Catholics (13 percent) were least likely to support it, followed by Protestants (20 percent), and evangelicals (25 percent). Only 16 percent of other Americans thought it was right for pastors to endorse political candidates.

An absolute majority of Americans also do not want churches to campaign for political candidates. When asked whether they agree with the statement, "I believe it is appropriate for churches to use their resources to campaign for candidates for public office," an overwhelming 81 percent of the Americans were against the idea, and only 17 percent agreed with it.

Protestants (18 percent) were more likely to agree with the statement as compared to Catholics (8 percent). About 21 percent of evangelicals supported the idea.

A greater proportion of African Americans (26 percent) and Hispanics (25 percent) than Whites (14 percent) thought that supporting political candidates through church resources was appropriate.

Americans were more evenly divided on the question of letting churches lose their tax exempt status if they choose to endorse political candidates.

About 52 percent said that churches must not lose tax exemption for publicly taking political sides, while another 42 percent did not think so.

Men (47 percent) were more likely to agree that churches must lose their tax-exempt status than women (38 percent).

More African Americans (64 percent) and Hispanics (57 percent) were opposed to this proposition than Whites (50 percent).

The conclusion of the survey was that Americans in general do not favor political endorsements by churches, but many believe that it was not a punishable offense.

"Endorsements from the pulpit are unpopular and most Americans say they are inappropriate," McConnell said. "But they don't want churches to be punished for something a pastor said."

The survey was carried out last year between September 14 and 28, via telephone interviews of about 1,000 Americans.