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Religious Tolerance logo

Religion and homosexuality

Religious belief & the desire to
criminalize homosexual sexual behavior

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Religious beliefs and the criminalization of homosexual sexual behavior:

The Barna Group is a conservative Christian polling group that specializes in researching the public's beliefs on religious and moral questions.

bulletIn 2001, they determined people's views on the criminalization of homosexual behavior. They found that:
bulletOnly 34% of born again Christians favored legalization of same-sex activities. Most feel that sexually active homosexuals should be imprisoned. We suspect that approximately the same percentage of conservatives from other religions -- Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, etc. -- would probably agree.
bullet57% of non-born again adults believed that homosexual behavior among consenting adults should be legal. 1
bulletAlso in 2001, they found that 95% of Evangelical Christians believe that homosexuality is a "morally unacceptable lifestyle." 2
bulletIn 2002, they found that "Nearly one out of five [American] adults listed moral decline as a top issue" of concern. They found that homosexuality was "...listed by less than one-half of one percent of the public as being among the most serious national issues. However, even though homosexuality is not near the top of most American's concerns, it is probably a major item. 3

The Gallup Organization has been polling American adults for almost three decades to learn their opinion on the criminalization of homosexuality. They found:

bulletThose favoring criminalization of homosexual behavior reached a peak in 1986 when 57% of the adult population believed that it should be illegal; 32% felt it should be legal.
bulletThose favoring legalization reached a peak in 2003 when 60% believed it should be legal; 35% felt it should be illegal.

In its Lawrence v. Texas ruling in mid-2003, the U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized private homosexual acts between adults throughout the U.S. They have interpreted the U.S. Constitution as guaranteeing  adults' right to privacy. Thus, all laws which criminalize such behavior are unconstitutional.

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There appear to be two solitudes in the United States:

bulletReligious conservatives from all major religions:

Many conservatives:

bulletView homosexuals as a group engaging in an immoral lifestyle who should be imprisoned. They do not view the "homosexual issue" in terms of civil rights. Just as murderers, rapists, muggers and other criminals should have their personal freedoms restricted, so too, severe restrictions on the rights of homosexuals should be continued. The term "tolerance" does not really apply towards homosexuals. We don't "tolerate" criminal behavior in general; why should we tolerate homosexuals?
bulletAre concerned that God may remove his blessings and protections from the entire country if the public's moral behavior continues to degenerate -- particularly if equal rights are given to homosexuals, whose behavior is hated by God.
bulletAre concerned about their right to teach their children that homosexual behavior is profoundly immoral, condemned in their holy texts, and hated by God.
bulletReligious liberals, human rights activists, and others:

Many of them:

bulletView homosexuals as individuals who should be given equal rights and protections. They view the "homosexual issue" in terms of human rights. Just as Roman Catholics, Irish immigrants, women and African-Americans have had to mount long-term campaigns to end discrimination based on their religion, country of origin, sex and race, so must sexual minorities fight now to end bigotry based on sexual orientation. Gay liberation and the achievement of equal rights and protection is simply the most recent step towards "liberty and justice for all."
bulletView God as favoring "justice and liberty for all," including sexual minorities.
bulletSupport anti-homophobia 4 education in public schools in order to sensitize students to the plight of gays, lesbians, same-sex couples and their children.

Dialogue and debate between these two groups is not liable to be productive until they can first reach a consensus on the nature, morality, and legality of homosexuality. Religious liberals and others who promote and end to employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation hate-crime protection for persons of all sexual orientations and same-sex marriage will not be able to achieve a national consensus if the conservative side wants to talk about sending all gays and lesbians to jail.

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  1. "Born Again Adults Remain Firm in Opposition to Abortion and Gay Marriage," The Barna Group, 2001-JUL-23, at: http://www.barna.org/

  2. "Most Americans Satisfied with Life Despite Having Quality of Life Issues," The Barna Group, 2002-MAR-26, at: http://www.barna.org/

  3. "Six out of 10 Americans Say Homosexual Relations Should Be Recognized as Legal," The Gallup Organization, 2003-MAY-15, at: http://www.gallup.com/

  4. On this website, we define "homophobia" to be engaging in a behavior aimed at restricting the human rights of persons who have a homosexual orientation and/or who engages in homosexual behavior. More information.

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Copyright © 2004 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-NOV-18
Latest update: 2007-AUG-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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