Poll links religion to gay enmity, suicides

October 21, 2010

Most Americans believe that messages about homosexuality coming from religious institutions contribute to negative views of gays and lesbians as well as to higher rates of suicide among gay youths, a new poll reports.

While divided on whether same-sex relations are sinful, Americans are more than twice as likely to give houses of worship low marks on handling the issue of homosexuality, according to the PRRI/
RNS Religion News poll released Octo­ber 21. A plurality (45 percent) of Amer­icans, however, gave their own congregation an A or B grade on how it handles homosexuality.

In the wake of a recent spate of teen suicides prompted by antigay harassment and bullying, the poll indicates a strong concern among U.S. adults about how religious messages are impacting public discussions of homosexuality.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) say religious messages about homosexuality contribute to "negative views" of gays and lesbians, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) see a connection to higher rates of suicide among gay youths.

"I think we are, without a doubt, making progress," said Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America, a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to combat negative religious messages about homosexuality. "There is a growing awareness and understanding about the harm that is caused when society places a religious or moral stamp of disapproval on the lives of gay and lesbian individuals, especially youths."

Other findings from the poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, include:

  • Nearly half of Americans age 18–34 say messages from places of worship are contributing "a lot" to negative views of gay and lesbian people, compared to just 30 percent of Americans age 65 and older.
  • More than 40 percent of Democrats say that messages about homosexuality coming from places of worship are contributing "a lot" to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth, compared to 17 percent of Republicans.
  • Over 40 percent of Americans give places of worship a D or an F grade when it comes to handling the issue of homosexuality; only 16 percent give them an A or a B. However, Americans rate their own places of worship significantly higher: 45 percent give it an A or B, and only 17 percent give it a grade of D or F.
  • White evangelicals are most satisfied with their church's handling of homosexuality, with 75 percent giving it an A or a B. Catholics are the most critical, with nearly a third—twice as many as any other group—giving their church a D or F.


When responses were broken down demographically, along with political divisions, the poll found that women and younger Americans are more likely to approve of same-sex relations, as well as agree with the view that messages from religious bodies contribute to negative attitudes about gays and lesbians.

PRRI's research director, Daniel Cox, said previous studies have found that women, although more likely to attend services regularly and have higher levels of religious commitment, are also more likely to have gay friends. Young people, too, are more likely to know someone who is openly gay. "Social relationships are one of the most important factors in determining whether someone will be supportive of gay and lesbian issues," Cox said.

Some faith leaders have modified their messages in light of the growing gap between public opinion and traditional religious teachings on homosexuality.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members poured millions of dollars into passing California's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage, has denounced antigay bullying, saying Mormons have a special responsibility to be kind to minority groups due to their own history of persecution.

But conservative culture warriors for whom homosexuality is a defining issue insist that their message is needed now more than ever.

"There is no contradiction between Christian compassion and a call for holy living," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins wrote recently in the Washington Post. "But the life which is holy . . . or even healthy . . . requires abstinence from homosexual conduct. We would do no one a favor if we ceased to proclaim that truth."

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,010 U.S. adults between October 14 and 17, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. —RNS


People are waking up

Traditionally, christians' response to homosexuality was torture and murder; modern practice, merely inventing and spreading ugly stories, is relatively mild. Christians consider that they are doing god's work, the evil consequences of which are blamed on those who suffer them. Not very "Christian" of course, but typical. Heartlessly, it is nevertheless an accurate observation to say that the individuals harmed most by this are christians' families, especially their children. This distinction (between those in their direct power and those of us who, thankfully are not) is growing more pronounced as christians' efforts to use the powers of the state to punish dissenters declines. Secular government is only way to defend society from the ravages of religious zealots.

Actually I talked to God and she said..

That you don't know what the hell you're talking about and that you're nuts. Everybody observe, an archaic stance on a non-issue that doesn't directly affect them.

Since you seem to think you know so much about God, particularly his stances on sexuality, you may want to go talk to the group that actually started policing issues of sex in the middle ages. Medieval priests.

God didn't say homosexuals are an abomination, the fact that our bodies are capable of giving and receiving homosexual love suggests that God sorta wrote it in for some people. Maybe the amount of gay people we're seeing now is directly related to the fact that God is sick of straight people popping out kids they don't want, and we're here to act as spare non-biological parents for when straight people screw up. :)


God never said a *thing* about sexuality! it was those claiming they were speaking *for* God who said so!

Furthermore, the word "homosexuality" wasn't even *invented* until the 1880s, my dear, so *any* Bible claiming to say so is wrong!


Don't get me started on shrimp and cotton/wool blends.


Cuz God said?

I would like everyone who quotes the bible to really understand it, study it ,learn in what context things were said in.
And then only quote it when they actually know what it means. The above comment is taken total out of context, misquoted and hardly means what the commentator is intending it to mean.
I feel there is no sin in loving consensual relations. But I think misquoting the bible or twisting its meaning to further your own ends, and bigotry is a true sin,
The days of using your religion to justify your hateful, bigoted, misogynistic, points of view are coming to an end.

Nothing new!

Many years ago, the Rev. Peter Gomes, a black conservative and head of ministry to Harvard University, wrote an Op-Ed column to the NY Times. In it, he stated that when Bette Greene was researching for her book "The Drowning of Stephen Jones", she interviewed those in prison convicted of hate crimes against gays and lesbians.

Ms. Greene's research showed that more often than not, the criminal's behavior was encouraged by their pastor, whether it be implicitly or explicitly.

Then after being a victim of a hate crime himself based on his being gay, Arthur Dong made the documentary film "Licensed To Kill", where he interviews those in prison for murdering LGBT people. To a person the criminals said it was their religious upbringing which played a major factor in justifying their crimes.

Also to be considered is the fact that nearly every time there's n election where the rights of LGBT people are on the ballot, a sharp and dramatic rise in LGBT hate crimes happens.

It's time mainstream Christianity begins to realize that LGBT people exist and have the exact same rights everyone else has under civil law.

As to your Christian faith, I don't see mobs of people demanding a denomination force out all of their women in their ministry, force them to wear what was seen as gender-specific clothing before the 1940s, deny them the right to work where they're qualified, or any other social taboo once claimed to be "unChristian"!