David Briggs writes at Huffington Post that while believers played a major role in the civil rights movement, "the voluntary segregation still found in houses of worship on Sunday mornings appears to limit the likelihood non-Hispanic white Americans will date, much less marry, a black, Hispanic or Asian partner."
In one national study of dating practices, researchers found those who attended church most often were far less likely to have dated someone from another race.
Churches are still one of the least likely places white, black, Asian and Hispanic Americans will encounter one another.
Pew's 2007 American Religious Landscape Survey found non-Hispanic whites made up more than 9-in-10 members of mainline Protestant churches and more than 8-in-10 members of evangelical Protestant churches, while more than 9-in-10 members of historically black churches were non-Hispanic blacks. Nearly 3-in-10 Catholics were Hispanic, compared with just 3 percent of mainline Protestants.
Research finds that being in a church with few or no members of another race makes a difference in choosing romantic partners.
About half of people who attend church once a year or never said they had dated interracially; just 27 percent of respondents who attend weekly or more reported dating a person of another race, according to a study using data from the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey.
Those who attended multiracial churches, however, were more likely to have dated a person of another race, Perry reported at the recent annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
And in a separate study of more than 12,000 people who were or had been married, only Catholics were significantly more likely than people from other traditions to cross significant racial or ethnic boundaries.
"Segregated churches breed segregated lives," says researcher Samuel Perry of the University of Chicago.
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