Separation of church and state
First of all, given the other choices offered as answers to the question (academics, journalists, sports stars, musicians), it seems clear that the "power" to which the question refers is not necessarily meant to be understood as political power. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that it does. The notion of the separation of church and state was written into the Constitution via the Bill of Rights, specifically the 1st amendment, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. In other words, the notion of separation of church and state, at least as regards America, actually anticipates what Reynolds claims to have found, ie the existence of a majority of people who might wish to impose their religion on the rest of the country via democratic means. And it is designed to prevent them from doing so. If it was to be expected that no such majority would ever materialize, then there would be no need for the clause to have been written into the Bill of Rights in the first place. Far from raising doubts about “where” the notion has gone, if anything the poll results (if true: see below) simply validate the need for it.
A far more sensible parenthetical than the one Reynolds provided would have been “Thank goodness for separation of church and state!”
But is it true, in any event, that the poll shows that a majority of Americans (or, rather, North Americans) want to give more power to religious leaders? Reynolds says so, but a link attached to a graphic in the middle of his article which says “Selection of facts and figures from the global survey” brings us to another series of graphs, one of which (#4) shows that less than 40% wanted to give more power to religious leaders. Less than 40% is, obviously, not a majority, narrow or otherwise.
However, the information in the link is said to be from a “BBC poll of global opinion”. There is no mention of Gallup. Is this a different poll to the Gallup poll Reynolds was writing about? If so, why did the BBC link to it within Reynolds’ piece, as if it were the same information, and what good is the information if the same question can produce such disparate results? If not, then either Reynolds or the graph is simply wrong, and the BBC is claiming credit for a poll done by someone else.
Ultimately, I don't want to make that big a deal about this. But it does, I think, give us some insight into a) how sloppy the BBC can be at times and b) how its inclination to take a shot at the US trumps a clear headed understanding of the US.