By Nicole Neroulias
Religion News Service
(RNS) Most Americans believe messages about homosexuality coming from religious institutions contribute to negative views of gays and lesbians, and higher rates of suicide among gay youths, a new poll reports. While split 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 a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Thursday (Oct. 21). A plurality (45 percent) of Americans, however, give their own house of worship an 'A' or 'B' grade on how it handles homosexuality. After a recent spate of teen suicides prompted by anti-gay harassment and bullying, the poll indicates a strong concern among Americans 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 PRRI/RNS 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.
- More than 40 percent of Americans give places of worship a 'D' or an 'F' when it comes to handling the issue of homosexuality; only 16 percent would 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 would 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.'