Russians argue whether Orthodox Church should stay out of politics or not

Half of Russians (50 percent) have noted the presence of the Orthodox Church in the state's domestic policy, with people increasingly noticing this over the past two years (44 percent in 2010), sociologists from the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsiOM) told Interfax on Tuesday.

Another 43 percent of respondents are still feeling the Church's influence in Russia's international affairs as well, sociologists said.

The Church's influence is weakest in the lives of ordinary Russians: half of respondents (49 percent) said this institution has no meaning for them, and people have been saying that more often in the past two years (from 43 to 49 percent).

The broadest sphere of influence of the Russian Orthodox Church is the spiritual and moral state of the society, according to 63 percent of 1,600 respondents polled by VTsIOM in 138 towns across 46 Russians regions in June.

Meanwhile, three quarters of Russians are convinced that the church should stay out of politics (75 percent). Forty-four percent believe its influence can spread to the spiritual and moral sphere of public life in general, and another one-third (31 percent) are certain the church should confine its activities to the matters of faith and religion. Over the past three years this point of view has become slightly more popular (from 27 to 31 percent).

Those who said religious institutions should be actively involved in all spheres of public life, including politics, are a minority (16-17 percent).

Confining the church's influence to the matters of faith is favored mainly by young (37 percent) and highly-educated (33 percent) people and those who distrust the clergy (42 percent), the VTsIOM poll showed. On the contrary, pre-retirement age respondents without higher education (18-19 percent), villagers (22 percent) and those who trust the clergy (21 percent) called for the church to become a political entity.

The sociological survey revealed that a relative majority of Russians regard the current relations between the Orthodox Church and the state as being well-balanced and harmonious (43 percent). This is normally the view of those who believe that the main sphere of influence of the Orthodox Church is the spiritual moral side of public life (57 percent). Another quarter of respondents (23 percent) said the Russian Orthodox Church's participation in public life is insufficient. This is primarily the view of those who expect the church to be actively involved in addressing all problems of the state, and not just in the sphere of morality and religion (39 percent).

One in five is convinced that today the Orthodox Church is too active in political affairs (19 percent). These respondents are mainly those who would like the church to limit its activities to the matters of faith and religion (28 percent).

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