Survey: Gay and lesbian population has unique religious profile

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 8:55 p.m. MDT

When it comes to religion, the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered adults have a unique profile that is less religious than the general population, and as a group, they feel religion is unfriendly toward them, a new survey found.

About half of the LGBT adults surveyed (48 percent) say they have no religious affiliation, compared with 20 percent of the general public, according to the Pew Research Center, and those who are religious generally attend worship services less often and attach less importance to their faith than do other religiously affiliated adults.

The online survey of 1,200 self-identified LGBT adults who were recruited to take part by the polling firm GfK Group of Palo Alto, Calif., is one of the largest and most detailed of the LGBT population, Pew said. The survey covered a range of topics from the politics and economic status of the respondents to their experiences and feelings about relationships, religion and revealing their sexual orientation. Religion appeared to be a particularly troubling area for most LGBT adults.

"I attend a church that does allow gays and lesbians to be ordained. However, it would be an issue for some people in the church and I’m not ready to open that can of worms,” said a 34-year-old lesbian evangelical who participated in the survey and was quoted in the Pew report.

While a solid majority (66 percent) of religiously affiliated LGBT adults said they have no conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity, the same group overwhelmingly rated six major religious groups as unfriendly.

The Muslim religion and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were viewed as the most unfriendly toward LGBT adults, followed by the Catholic Church, Evangelical churches, the Jewish faith and non-evangelical Protestant churches.

But researchers also found that religiously unaffiliated LGBT adults were more likely to say religion is unfriendly toward them than those who are affiliated. And, believers who are LGBT were less likely to say their church is unfriendly toward them.

Among LGBT Catholics, two-thirds (66 percent) say the Catholic Church is unfriendly toward them, while 84 percent of religiously unaffiliated LGBT adults saw the Catholic Church as unfriendly.

Reaching out

Both the Roman Catholic Church and the LDS Church have made efforts to welcome LGBT adults into their respective faiths despite doctrinal disagreements over same-sex relations and behavior.

More than 10 years ago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued "Always our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers." Directing a message to parents to love their children as God does came across as positive and less preachy and negative, said Rev. Thomas Reese, a Catholic scholar and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

"I think that was the high point in the bishops' speaking positively about their teaching, which makes the distinction between (sexual) orientation and the choice" of one's actions, Reese said.

The Catholic Church teaches that sexual orientation is not sinful, but that homosexual behavior is a sin because sexual intercourse can only take place within marriage and must be open to the possibility of producing children.

The LDS Church has also reached out, creating a website, mormonsandgays.org, that features discussions among top church leaders and members on same-sex attraction. The church has also supported local ordinances banning employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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