Results of a survey released Thursday show a majority of respondents believe that the condemnation of gay people by religious leaders contributes to the high suicide rate among LGBT youths.
The survey of of 1,017 Americans from across the nation was conducted by The Public Religion Research Council between October 14 and 17. The survey has a margin of error of three percentage points.
Two out of three Americans believe gay people commit suicide at least partly because of messages coming out of churches and other places of worship, a survey released Thursday found.
More than four out of 10 Americans say the message coming out of churches about gay people is negative, and about the same number say those messages contribute “a lot” to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.
Catholics were the most critical of their own churches’ messages on homosexuality, while white evangelical Christians gave their churches the highest grades, the survey found.
Further details from the Salt Lake Tribune:
And though Americans are split about whether they see homosexual activity as a sin, 72 percent say religion contributes to negative views of gays and lesbians.
The survey includes [breakdowns] of some faith traditions, but too few Mormons took part to draw conclusions about how members of Utah’s predominant faith regard their own leaders’ handling of the homosexuality issue, said Daniel Cox, research director for the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the survey in partnership with Religion News Service.
The executive director of Faith in America, a nonprofit group founded in 2005 to combat negative religious messages about homosexuality, pointed to the poll as progress for his cause.
“There is a growing awareness and understanding,” said Brent Childers to Religion News Service, “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.”
In the survey, more than twice as many Americans give places of worship low marks in handling the homosexuality issue as give them high marks. Four in 10 respondents give religious organizations a D (18 percent) or an F (24 percent).
Of course, this survey can not prove a direct link between anti-LGBT religious based rhetoric and LGBT youth suicide. However, while limited as all such surveys are, this does seem to give a firm voice to what has long been a prevalent notion— that anti-LGBT rhetoric has can have a serious impact on young people.
It is also worth highlighting that there are many churches that are LGBT affirming, but often their voices are overpowered by right-wing organizations and prominent religious-right figures that, under the guise of biblical and religious truth, fight at every turn the discussion of LGBT issues and the most basic of LGBT rights legislation, especially where young people are concerned.
A relevant example would be Focus on the Family’s staunch opposition to the expansion of federal anti-bullying legislation beyond groups it already protects (religious belief being one of them) to create specific protections against bullying based on perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity, while in the same breath also shouting about the dangers of the “homosexual agenda”.
In an Op-Ed piece written for the CNN faith blog, Jim Daly, the head of Focus on the Family, offered that it is not all Christians that are to blame for the hostile messages LGBT youth hear, but rather “Some self-described Christians” who “do not act in Christ-like ways toward those who are different than they are[.]” I couldn’t agree more, Jim. Perhaps if you could just have a word with your organization and its associates?
Last week Bishop Gene Robinson wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which he said that people of faith – along with other advocates – must be seen actively speaking up for LGBTs and LGBT rights so that questioning youths know that the condemnation and hostility LGBTs face from certain quarters is not representative of every member of the religious community:
Just as many gay kids grow up in these conservative denominations as any other. They are told day in and day out that they are an abomination before God. Just consider the sheer numbers of LGBT kids growing up right now in Roman Catholic, Mormon, and other conservative religious households. The pain and self-loathing caused by such a distortion of God’s will is undeniable and tragic, causing scars and indescribable self-alienation in these young victims.
On the other hand, what’s the role of more mainline, more progressive denominations such as mainstream Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in these recent tragedies? Mostly silence. And just like in the days of the AIDS organization Act Up, “silence equals death.”
It is not enough for good people — religious or otherwise — to simply be feeling more positive toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Tolerance and a live-and-let-live attitude beats discrimination and abuse by a mile. But it’s not enough. Tolerant people, especially tolerant religious people, need to get over their squeamishness about being vocal advocates and unapologetic supporters of LGBT people. It really is a matter of life and death, as we’ve seen.
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