Aug 25, 2022 - World

Why many Latinos are choosing Protestantism over Catholicism

Data: PRRI American Values Atlas; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

The percentage of Latinos who identify as Protestant — evangelical and other Christian faiths — is expected to grow from about 25% today to 50% by 2030.

Why it matters: More Latinos are leaving Catholicism for Protestant churches, which is influencing the political landscape in the U.S.

By the numbers: Half of U.S. Hispanics identified as Roman Catholic and 15% as evangelical in 2020, according to data from the Public Religion Research Institute.

  • Two decades ago, those numbers were 53% and 8%, respectively.
  • An Axios-Ipsos Latino Poll in partnership with Noticias Telemundo also found younger generations of Latinos are less likely to identify as Catholic.

The big picture: People who left the Roman Catholic Church are driving most of the Protestant growth among Latinos, studies show.

  • The boom is also attributed to immigration to the U.S. from countries where evangelicalism is already strong, like Guatemala, according to Jonathan Calvillo, assistant professor at Emory University's School of Theology.

Sociologist Aida I. Ramos, dean of the College of Education, Social and Behavioral Sciences at John Brown University, interviewed Latinos who converted for an upcoming study. She says the most common reasons given for the switch are:

  • They feel disconnected from the Catholic Church that they grew up with and the Protestant “style of worship can feel less confined” to them.
  • Protestant traditions offered them more community support.

What they’re saying: White non-Hispanic Protestants have often worked to convert Hispanics, Ramos says. But, increasingly, “Latinos are converting other Latinos.”

  • “It's actually Latino congregations and congregants who are inviting their family members, inviting their friends, and are introducing the faith to other Latinos,” Ramos said.

Between the lines: Growing evangelicalism among U.S. Hispanic communities is one of the factors moving Latinos to the right on political issues.

Of note: Most Latino Protestants live in Texas, New Mexico and California counties near the border, with growing numbers in south Florida and in Washington state, data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows.

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