"The number of Americans who never attend religious services jumped over the past two years," the report found, "roughly one in three Americans now report that they never attend religious services."
That change in church attendance was most noted among young adults, though religious identity, the report from the Survey Center on American life recorded, "remained mostly stable."
Author of the study Dan Cox said that it was the pandemic closures that likely pushed some people out the door for the last time. "These were the folks that were more on the fringes to begin with," he said. "They didn’t need much of a push or a nudge, to just be done completely."
"Before the coronavirus pandemic," the study reads, "75 percent of Americans reported attending religious services at least once a year, including about one-quarter (26 percent) who attended regularly (at least a few times a month). By spring 2022, roughly two-thirds of the public reported attending religious services at least once a year."
"Much of this decline in attendance was due to people completely abstaining from worship," it continues. "The number of Americans who became completely disconnected from a place of worship increased significantly over the past few years. Before the pandemic, one in four Americans reported that they never attended religious services. By spring 2022, that share increased to 33 percent."
Across the board, liberals are the ones who exhibited the steepest decline in church attendance.
"Liberals (46 percent), those who have never married (44 percent) and those under 30 (43 percent) are most likely to skip worship service altogether and saw the largest declines in attendance rates. By contrast, conservatives (20 percent), those over 65 (23 percent) or those who are married (28 percent) are less likely to say they never attend services and saw less drop-off," Christian Century reported.
Though local governments kept the doors of big box stores, casinos, and liquor shops open, places of worship were shut down. In some areas, holding church services became illegal and cops shut them down, or recorded license plates of attendees to hold them accountable for exercising their forbidden first amendment right to freedom of religion and religious expression.
The Washington Post, among other outlets, mocked churches for wanting to continue holding services, writing that churches were essentially a business like any other, saying that if churches were to receive federal Covid funds, they should close their doors. WaPo claimed that since lockdown orders from many local governments were "neutral," "meaning that they apply in the same way to everyone," churches had no first amendment right to stand on.
They argued that because churches are "gathering places," and stores are not, it made sense to shutter churches. The Supreme Court, however, did not agree with WaPo's assessment, or the obliteration of first amendment rights by state and local leaders.
By the time a consortium of New York churches and synagogues brought suit against the state and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had issued an order to shutter services in that state, the damage had already been done. The Supreme Court heard the case on an emergency basis in the fall of 2020, saying the order was unconstitutional, but by then Americans' habits had already changed.
Millions of Catholics went without the holy sacrament of the Eucharist for months, had celebrated Easter without communion or community and some churches never recovered the parishioners who had fled the church under pandemic-inspired restrictions.
Cuomo, despite the loss at the Supreme Court, continued to call for churches to remain closed on a voluntary basis, and many complied, fearful of the consequences of remaining open. But at the same time, Cuomo also insisted that the rights of New Yorkers to gather in the streets to protest racism was paramount. He even encouraged those who were engaging in contact tracing, a practice wherein officials contact those with whom a sick person has likely been exposed to a communicable disease, not ask people if they had attended protests.
While churches sat closed in New York City at the behest of rights-abusing politicians, those same leaders encouraged thousands to gather outside the Brooklyn Museum in June 2020 to protest for "black trans lives." Protesting in the name of progressive pet causes was celebrated, while celebrating and worshipping God was forbidden.
And now churches, and the nation, are seeing the losses to their parishes, their communities, and the spiritual life of Americans.
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