Display Commandments, But Not Koran Verses, Americans Tell Pollsters

A majority of Americans believe government should be able to display the Ten Commandments but would not extend that right to displays involving passages from the Koran, a new poll indicates.

The survey, taken by CNN and Gallup in conjunction with USA Today, found that 70 percent of Americans back displays of the Ten Commandments at government buildings and public schools. However, only 33 percent approved of displays featuring a verse from the Koran in those same settings. Sixty-four percent opposed them.

A separate question asked respondents how they feel about displays that include many different religious symbols. Only 10 percent said they believe government should be able to display exclusively Christian symbols, while 58 percent said other religious symbols should be included. (Twenty-nine percent said government should display no religious symbols.)

Those polled did not accept the argument that displays of religious symbols at the seat of government send a message of religious exclusion. Only 25 percent of those polled said displaying the Ten Commandments could send the message that Christians and Jews will get special treatment; 73 percent said the display would not send that message.

A majority did agree that government endorsement of religion can harm religious minorities, however. Fifty-four percent agreed with the statement that when government promotes religion it "can harm the rights of people who do not belong to that religion." Forty percent disagreed.

The survey also asked a few questions about faith-based initiatives. Most respondents 64 percent said they approve of using tax funds to pay for community services run by Christian groups. But 56 percent said they would not support funding of community groups with an Islamic affiliation.

The poll was based on a survey of 1,003 adults nationwide taken Sept. 19-21. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three points.