Religious Views Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender People Revealed In New Survey

LGBT rinbow flag and clapping hands.
LGBT rinbow flag and clapping hands.

Surveys have repeatedly shown that religious objections are the most popular reason people cite when they say being gay is immoral or that they don't support legalizing same-sex marriage. But what do gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people think about religion?

Ahead of expected Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's gay marriage ban, a new poll has shed light on the religious beliefs and practices of LGBT Americans, including their views on which religious groups they see as the least friendly to them.

The survey, from the Pew Research Center, found that LGBT people are much less religious than the broader American population. About half -- 48 percent -- say they don't have any religion, more than double the percentage of the general public that says the same. But slightly more LGBT Americans, 51 percent, do have a religion, and 17 percent of them say religion is "very important" in their lives. Of those who are religious, most are Protestant or Catholic.

At the same time that it found plenty of religious LGBT people, Pew also found that a third of them said there was a "conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity."

"That sentiment is even more prevalent among the general public. About three-quarters (74 percent) of white evangelical Protestants and a majority (55 percent) of all U.S. adults with a religious affiliation say homosexuality conflicts with their religious beliefs," the research organization said in a release. "Among all adults in the general public, there is a strong correlation between frequent church attendance and the belief that homosexuality should be discouraged."

Nearly all of those surveyed said they saw at least one of six religious institutions as "unfriendly" to LGBT people. Most -- about eight-in-ten -- said Islam, Mormonism and the Catholic Church were unfriendly. Nearly three-quarters said evangelical churches were unfriendly to them. Fewer people said they found Judaism and non-evangelical Protestant churches to be unfriendly, but more people still found those groups to be unfriendly compared to those who said they were friendly.

About three-in-ten of respondents added that they have "been made to feel unwelcome at a place of worship or religious organization." The survey did not ask about friendliness or unfriendliness among other religious groups aside from Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals, Jews and non-evangelical Protestants. (Previous surveys from Pew and other organizations have shown that despite their church's official stance against same-sex marriage, Catholics Americans are one of the most supportive religious groups when it comes to gay rights).

Responding to the survey, Ross Murray, who focuses on faith initiatives the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he has seen "a real significant shift in the relationship between religious communities and LGBT people in the last decade, but the history before then is a real painful one."

"I think that relationship is going to mend, but it will happen slowly ... I hope that inclusive faith communities are able to get their message out even better, so that there can be better trust between LGBT people and religion," he said.

The survey was conducted April 11-29 among 1,197 self-identified LGBT adults. See the full results here.

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