Emmanuel Perez was about 15 years old when he decided the Catholic faith was not for him.

Perez’s cousin had just died in a car crash and his mother drove from her Santa Ana home in Orange County to Tulare near Fresno to help prepare the body for the viewing. She wanted to “be there for her in her last moments,” said Perez, 23.

His mother, however, was forbidden from getting close to the body.

Because his mom had divorced his father and lived with her new partner without getting married, Perez’s aunt didn’t consider her “holy enough” to be near her niece’s body. Perez said it was heartbreaking, especially because his mother devoted herself to the Catholic faith to create a bond with her family while his dad was not around.

That’s when he realized: “This is not for me. This is not what I believe in.”

According to a new Pew Research Center survey released Oct. 17, in 2018-19, 47% of Latinos identified as Catholic, down from 57% a decade ago.

The study found the share of Latinos who say they are religiously unaffiliated is now 23%, up from 15% in 2009.

The report, a collection of yearly political surveys asking about religion, highlighted a continuing decline of Christianity in the U.S. It found that 65% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, down from 77% in 2009.

Jennifer Hughes, a University of California Riverside associate professor who focuses on the history of Latin American and Latino religions, said that although this is a major shift, it’s important to consider the nuances of Latino Catholic identity.

“Because to say you’re Catholic … if you claim that, it may mean you go to church every Sunday and you go to confession and you’re in good standing,” Hughes said. “Those people who say they’re not Catholic, they could still be culturally Catholic.

The above comes from a Nov. 8 story reported by Religion News Service.