By Jeff Brumley // Baptist News Global

This is an excerpt. The full article is available online at the Baptist News Global website. 

Eighty-three nations have an official, state-endorsed religion or they give preferred treatment to one over others, according to new research.

The Pew Research Center study listed the United States among 106 countries that have no official or preferred faith.

But is that changing?

To some observers, it seems so given the increasingly blurry lines between church and state.

Appearing to erode that historic separation in the U.S. is the cozy relationship between Donald Trump and conservative evangelical leaders. Images of pastors, many of them Southern Baptists, laying hands on and praying with the president have raised concerns among those who believe the chief executive must avoid such faith-based favoritism.

Cabinet-level Bible studies at least give the impression that a preferred, if not official, American religion is emerging.

“They’ve been called the most evangelical Cabinet in history — men and women who don’t mince words when it comes to where they stand on God and the Bible,” the Christian Broadcasting Network declared in July.

Another step toward a state-sanctioned religion, many say, is the White House campaign to weaken or eliminate the Johnson Amendment. That would open the door for churches to offer political and financial support to candidates and causes. The consequences would be detrimental to the separation of church and state, opponents say.

“Inviting churches to intervene in campaigns with tax-deductible offerings would fundamentally change our houses of worship,” the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty warned in February about efforts to water down or eliminate the amendment. “It would usher our partisan divisions into the pews and harm the church’s ability to provide refuge.”

But do these trends herald the coming of state-based Christianity in the United States? Church historian Bill Leonard doesn’t think so.

Just do the math.

“The groups of people who would favor some sort of national ownership of Christianity are shrinking,” said Leonard, an expert on American religion and a professor at Wake Forest University Divinity School.

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