U.S. Hispanics making major impact on religious landscape

.- A new survey released Wednesday says the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States has changed the religious landscape in the country, The Associated Press has reported.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center. The bilingual survey involved 4,600 interviews from August to October 2006 and is billed as one the most detailed looks ever at Hispanics and U.S. public life. It has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Among the major findings, the survey indicated that Hispanics see religion as a moral compass to guide their political thinking and they expect the same of politicians. Most Hispanics believe social and political issues should be addressed from the pulpit.

Among Catholic Hispanics, 48 percent said they were Democrats and 17 percent Republicans, while Hispanic evangelicals more narrowly favored Republicans, 37 percent to 32 percent, reported the AP.

The study found that two-thirds of Hispanic worshippers attend churches with Hispanic clergy, Spanish services, and heavily Hispanic congregations. The survey also discovered that these churches are attracting new immigrants, Spanish speakers, and English-speaking, U.S.-born Hispanics.

Edwin Hernandez, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame, told the AP that ethnic churches affirm cultural roots and the strength of family and community. Rather than isolating Hispanics, ethnic churches do the opposite through job training, social services, and connecting Hispanics across generations, he said.

The survey found that 54 percent of Hispanic Catholics identify themselves as charismatic, compared with about 12 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics. Charismatic Catholics are more likely to pray the rosary, go to confession, or serve in their parishes, the survey said.

The survey found 18 percent of Hispanics have either converted from one religion to another or claim no religious affiliation. Four out of 10 Hispanic evangelicals are converts from Catholicism, and one in three of these cited the lack of excitement at Catholic Masses as the reason. Very few cited dissatisfaction with the Church's teachings.

Census estimates say there are more than 42 million Hispanics in America, making them the nation's largest minority group.

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