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Survey: Faith groups maintain widespread support for LGBT protection laws

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon/Creative Commons

(RNS) — A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that strong majorities within all religious groups, including white evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, show sustained support for LGBT nondiscrimination policies.

The newly released data from PRRI’s 2018 American Values Atlas, an annual survey of more than 40,000 Americans, showed that 69 percent of all Americans are in favor of enacting laws shielding LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.

The two faith groups least likely to support these policies, according to the survey, were white evangelical Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but even they were in favor of laws protecting LGBT people by small majorities, at 54 percent for white evangelicals and 53 percent for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Especially in these times and with this sort of politically charged issue, to see this level of agreement is actually pretty striking,” said Maxine Najle, a research associate at PRRI. “We found broad support from pretty much every demographic, from every state and every major religious group – even among the groups who are generally more conservative on these LGBT issues.”

While PRRI polling has found that religious resistance to same-sex marriage is declining, with more and more groups moving to a plurality of support, only about a third of white evangelical Protestants said they support same-sex marriage last year.

But on LGBT anti-discrimination policies, the support runs much deeper.

Majorities in Every State Across the Country Favor Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People. Graphic courtesy of PRRI

The highest agreement came among Americans who follow New Age faiths, at 86 percent. Jews, Hindus and Buddhists were all well above 70 percent, as were those who identified as religiously unaffiliated. Only slightly less in favor of LGBT protections, at about 70 percent, were Mormons, Catholics, white mainline Protestants and those who followed other religions PRRI does not track. Around 60 percent of nonwhite Protestants, Muslims and Orthodox Christians also said they favored such protections.

Majorities of Americans across the political spectrum, too, said they support LGBT nondiscrimination policies. About 79 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans said they would support such laws – though Republican support has fallen from 61 percent in 2015.

In 2015, about 57 percent of white evangelicals said they supported nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people. The 3 percentage-point drop occurred before 2017 and is statistically insignificant, according to Najle.

On Wednesday (March 13), the Equality Act, which would codify anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people as part of federal law, is expected to head back to Congress. The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, jury service, education and federal programs.

The bill has been introduced in various forms since 1974, including in 2015 and 2017, dying each time in committee, but has never been given a floor vote in Congress. Advocates are hopeful the bill can pass with Democrats now in control of the House and public polling such as PRRI’s showing broad support for LGBT protections.


RELATED: Most evangelical college students appreciate LGBT people even if trustees don’t


PRRI’s findings on changing attitudes toward LGBT people confirm trends that researchers have seen among college students, noted Kevin Singer, a research associate with the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey. His team polled 7,200 students at 122 colleges and universities and found that 78 percent of incoming first-year students in 2015 found it “important” or “very important” that their campuses would be welcoming to people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

“They are warming up to LGBT people and hope their campuses are welcoming to them,” Singer said, but he noted that fewer LGBT students, particularly trans students, said they believed their campuses were welcoming to LGBT people.

“Instituting nondiscrimination protections could help to close the gap between perceptions of welcome, and how welcoming our campuses really are,” Singer said.

About the author

Aysha Khan

Aysha Khan is a Boston-based journalist reporting on American Muslims and millennial faith for RNS. Her newsletter, Creeping Sharia, curates news coverage of Muslim communities in the U.S. Previously, she was the social media editor at RNS.

75 Comments

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  • As a gay person, I am very encouraged to read this. This is not the kind of news we gay people have expected to hear for, oh, the last millennium or so, so that’s good. Change, it seems, is possible. That gives me hope that humanity can evolve from being motivated principally by prejudice, hatred, and fear to becoming informed by fact, along with the experience of interacting with real live gay people who, as it turns out, aren’t monsters hellbent on “converting” children, as has long been the ugly stereotype. Most encouraging for me is the fact that a majority of evangelicals actually think I shouldn’t be fired from my job, evicted from an apartment or public accommodations, or denied service simply for being gay. That really is something new. I don’t say this very often, but, “Glory Hallelujah!”

  • Not sure about any other religion, but I’m actually sure that the question to JWs, if asked differently, would get a much higher number.

    JWs fully support the right of everyone making their own decisions in the way they live their lives, but, this is two part.

    While JWs would always respect your choice, it is the action of homosexuality that they disagree with, not the person themselves, if you know what I mean.

    Everyone has free choice, and JWs support your right of free choice, so then would support discrimination laws, but, the act of homosexuality is what they and the bible disapprove of.

  • Very sensible. Whatever people’s attitudes might be towards homosexuality, most don’t want discrimination against homosexuals in jobs, public accommodation and housing. This live and let live policy is something that most people can accept.

  • Sure, the evil “left” is forcing them against their will to treat LGBT people like human beings.

  • Not even Mississippi and Alabama are holding out against the gay tide?

    Roy Moore…where are you? Stop dating the teens and start pushing back against the LGBT lobby !!

  • Makes me wonder how some people can claim to support non-discrimination laws but oppose marriage equality at the same time.

  • Ah yes, YOU clearly see the mess that Goliath is brewing. Gay Goliath’s so-called “Equality Act” is meant to force all Christians all across the nation, to bow & kowtow to the evil of Gay Marriage. How? By indirectly repealing the constitutional religious and speech freedoms of any Christians who refuse to bow and kowtow to gay weddings / receptions when requested.

    Here’s the idea: In many states, like mine, Gay Goliath knows he cannot attempt ANY foolishness like what he did to Christians like Jack Phillips and Baronelle Stutzmann. That mess just Ain’t gonna happen, Bedda’ not happen, and Goliath knows it. We — even some of the Non-Christian “We” — would put the Bill of Rights on Goliath’s tootsies in a hot Courthouse minute.

    Therefore Gay Goliath’s “Equality Act”, is meant to indirectly repeal, nationwide, the Bill of Rights freedom of religion and/or speech of any Christian who dares to flat-out stand up against any requested Gay Wedding / Reception participation.

  • One shouldn’t take the measure of people by the “God Hates Fags!” Evangelicals that have overrun this site. In the real world, people aren’t so hateful and vile toward gay people. This comment site is an outlier, even among the Christian faith.

  • “… Evangelicals … have overrun this site”.

    You’re just upset because it has changed from JoeMyGod II to something better resembling American sentiments.

    One wonders what you think most Christians believe to write “This comment site is an outlier, even among the Christian faith.”

  • The polling data does not support the conclusion that Americans think LGBT positions are either desirable or moral.

    As with abortion, their tolerance is high for people who disagree with them, which this sort of polling data obscures.

  • The article itself shows that you’re wrong about American sentiments. Bigotry against gays is dying, and Americans are already on board with leaving that nonsense behind. It’s the anti-gay crusaders who have lost touch with America.

  • Except that equality is mainstream, not ‘extreme left.’ It’s the gay-hating radical right who are extreme and a rapidly dwindling minority.

  • The only extremists here are the ones who are against basic notions of rule of law, civility and decency, seeking special privilege to attack others in the name of their faith. You.

  • Christian bigots are annoyed by notions of rule of law and basic levels of civility required by society.

    They do not care one bit about religious freedom. They just want special privilege to attack others.

  • No, the article demonstrates that there was never the “bigotry” against gays that you would like to portray.

    As with abortion, most Americans are of the live-and-let-live persuasion even with things they are personally opposed to.

  • You make some good points about the way they view free will, but remember, Jehovah’s Witnesses are neutral to politics. The question must have been asked in a way which required the pollsters to interpret, or re-frame the answers to fit the survey goal.

    When it comes to politics and the making of laws, Jehovah’s Witnesses are basically indifferent. They neither support, nor oppose laws. They do not even vote. They strive to obey the laws of any land in which they live, but if those laws conflict with God’s laws, they ‘obey God as ruler rather than men’.

    In practicality… if a nation wanted to enact laws about protecting rights, the Witnesses would have no opinion about the making of the law. If it was simply a law about protecting rights in the public sphere (like those of this article,) they would obey the law. However, they would not ‘support’ (nor oppose) the law. If the law tried to dictate how they should act within their congregations, they would not oppose (nor support) the law, but they would obey God as ruler and follow what the Bible says about practicing homosexuality.

  • Your right as a man is to marry a woman if you wish. There is no Goliath who is trying to take that from you or from any other man or woman. My heterosexual marriage of 47 years to one woman is not threatened by two other women marrying each other.

  • Except when the religion wants to become a recognized and affiliated non-governmental organization of the United Nations (The only way a religion can join the UN, BTW)…. Then quickly resign once the scandal exploded onto the scene.

  • The Jehovah’s Witnesses will never accept gay people. This is a superficial lie the JW organization tells you. If you google “Caleb and Sophia”, you’ll see how they REALLY feel about gay people.

    They may pay lip service towards their rights, but look how gay people are treated in their church. They’re shunned, kicked out of the house before they’re 18, or simply shipped off to a relative’s house, never to be seen again.

    A person I knew set themselves on fire because they couldn’t handle being gay and being a JW at the same time.Eventually, she left that church and is living a happy life.

    If you’re a gay person in the JWs, you will either have to make the choice to be celibate or be shunned. Being shunned means you lose your family, the friends you grew up with, and possibly your job connections. Since you’re not allowed to associate with outsiders while as a member of the church, you won’t have a social safety net to fall onto once you leave. You’re on your own. You have nobody to talk to since you didn’t forge those friendships outside of the JWs.

    That’s why many gay former Jehovah’s Witnesses kill themselves.

  • Yep… exactly. Having NGO status is a public recognition. It was not, in any way, a secret affair. When it was shown to be a ‘false step’, they wisely stepped away. How humble it was on their part to act in a godly manner, even when their human thinking led them astray. Thinking that occasion somehow brings them disrepute is the thinking of those who
    look for ways to tear down. If they had hardened their hearts, and stood steadfast in the pride of the false step, they may have brought dishonor to Jehovah – who has promised to do away with all human rulerships and install Jesus as King of Gods Kingdom. As it stands, they deserve praise for the humility it takes to correct such a public mistake!

  • If it’s the act and not the person then why shun the person? You can still have interactions and be show respect to the person but disapprove of the act. As always, JW’s will employ contradictory, circular arguments to feign support.

  • If it’s the act and not the person then why shun the person? You can still have interactions and be show respect to the person but disapprove of the act. As always, JW’s will employ contradictory, circular arguments to feign support.

  • Only Christ can protect homosexuals and He did so by dying for them, should they turn to Him, renounce their sins,and follow Him – otherwise, nothing else can protect them. It may feel wonderful here but their future in eternity is more important

  • Christ does not endorse/approve of homosexuality. He said that He would not allow homosexuals into the Kingdom of Heaven.

  • They can give you whatever you want, but, it will not get you into Heaven.
    Christ is the only door, and He said homosexuals need to repent of their sin to get into a relationship with Him culminating in Heaven.

  • Oh yes, your marriage IS threatened too, and it’s time for you to sing a more accurate tune on that one.

    The great, unique, gender-complementary treasure that YOU have celebrated for 4 decades, (which is a necessary underlying long-term moral survival fabric of every nation and religion), is directly despised, dissed, denied & dismantled by Gay Marriage and it’s supporters

    You know personally that men and women are NOT interchangeable in the marital. That’s at the heart of your longtime treasure. But now the very basis of your treasure is under full attack, from Gay Activists.

  • Floydlee, WHAT on EARTH do you listen to that puts you out in these wild orbits? Most people are hetero by nature and they are having so many children that whole societies are like The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot accommodate in law and fairness a few people who are different.

  • This is nice to see. Of course, in many of these states, there are no legal protections on the books for LGBT individuals when it comes to employment (26 states), housing (26 states), or public accomodations (27 states). So take these numbers with that grain of salt.

  • Protection in this world is just fine, thanks. And that can only be had through law and government.

  • >Yep… exactly. Having NGO status is a public recognition. It was not, in any way, a secret affair.

    Then why did they leave as soon as it became public that they were affiliated with the UN?

    >When it was shown to be a ‘false step’, they wisely stepped away.

    Then why didn’t they make that step in the first place? It looks more like they got caught with their pants down, and they hoped their believers would be dumb enough to buy into the mushroom treatment they were getting from the org.

    >How humble it was on their part to act in a godly manner, even when their human thinking led them astray. Thinking that occasion somehow brings them disrepute is the thinking of those who
    look for ways to tear down.

    No, it looks more like they were caught with their pants down and they hoped their believers would accept the mushroom treatment they were getting. And saying “How humble is it for my religion to do this” is the exact opposite of humility. If you’re really humble, other people will say it for you, not the other way around.

    >If they had hardened their hearts, and stood steadfast in the pride of the false step, they may have brought dishonor to Jehovah – who has promised to do away with all human rulerships and install Jesus as King of Gods Kingdom. As it stands, they deserve praise for the humility it takes to correct such a public mistake!

    they corrected their public mistake only after it became a mega scandal on XJW message boards. They weren’t going to change. Again,they were giving you the mushroom treatment and hoping it stuck. Looks like it did.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/oct/08/religion.world

    As clear as day

  • I hope you don’t mind if I skip answering your questions. As it is, the exchange is pretty far off topic. My responses would be redundant to what I’ve said already. Why, as a few comments on the topic seem to, distract from the subject matter? You had a say; I had a say; beyond that, I’m not interested in arguing. Anyone reading can use their reason to consider the points made. Ty

  • And my state, SC, has the second lowest. But we’ve got a lot of Evangelicals and conservative Christians here.

  • Ex-JW here. I didn’t know about the U.N. issue. Hilarious – consorting with the Wild Beast and backpedaling on the blood issue. It’s a shame considering how sincere most of the rank and file is.

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) predicted the end of the world, IN WRITING, numerous times. Not once did they come true. They truly are known for their ‘False Predictions’ the world over.

    JWs are taught that they alone are TRUE Christians and that all other people not JW will soon be destroyed. This is no exaggeration.

    JWs will allow their own children TO DIE rather than accept a life saving blood transfusion even in severe medical emergencies. It has already happened THOUSANDS of times!

    Just like this mother died unnecessarily! http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/shropshire/7078455.stm

    Two recently in Canada! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42002996

    Or this teenager that also DIED: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/8690785.stm

    This pregnant JW and her baby died.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3027599/Jehovah-s-Witness-baby-die-refuses-blood-transfusion-seven-months-pregnant-cancer-80-chance-surviving-treatment.html

    JWs NEEDLESSLY die for this sorry blood policy today.

    From the same organization that has an entire 100 + year history of similar bad and embarrasing policies.

    As a 15 year active JW (and an elder) here is my own story: http://www.bibletoday.com/archive/JW_Disassociation_letter_by_Vinny.htm#.W0E7_K2ZMVc

    JWs used to forbid Vaccinations and Organ Transplants (calling a life saving transplant “Cannibalism”) for a combined 33 years.

    This JW elder refused a kidney transplant and DIED only to have JWs say transplants are now OK 2 years later. http://ajwrb.org/debbie-shards-story

    JWs enforce extreme shunning for any JW that decides to leave their religion or who sins without showing enough repentance to the elders.

    I have literally seen parents cut off all ties with their children solely because the kid did not want to remain a JW but went in another direction.

    Even ex-JWs who leave the religion on their own, are 100 percent truthful, sincere, love God, pay taxes, help others and more are still SHUNNED by all current JWs and marked as godless, proud, sinning apostates. The Awake magazine recently called them “mentally diseased”.

    And MANY contemplate suicide because the penalties of losing everything are TOO MUCH TO TAKE.

    But an honest question is: Why do so many JWs leave after being one time followers?

    As I eventually found out, the JW religion did say, IN WRITING, that the end would come in 1914 and then again in 1925. Was Jehovah directing all that? 1914 and 1925 came and went! They were proven false predictions. Period.

    They also said the end very likely would happen in 1975 and even commended (in the watchtower) witnesses for selling their houses and pioneering because of it.

    But 1975 came and went!

    They also said (for many decades) that the end would come before the generation born in 1914 passed away. In fact up until 1995 it was written inside each Awake magazine cover. Only they then had to change that meaning as well (including the Awake masthead) because that generation CAME AND WENT TOO.

    I was an active JW (and elder) for 15 years before leaving because of the blood policy 13 yrs ago. Today I’m shunned by all JWs simply because I left the religion.

    Most JWs accept everything the Watchtower teaches and says as “food from God”. Just like I did.

    Most believe God has chosen the Watchtower Society as his “channel”, which provides food from God Himself to their religion and ONLY their religion.

    But an honest look at the facts of the JW religion shows God has not chosen the WT for anything!

    Take a LOOK: https://jwfacts.com/watchtower/changed-watchtower-teachings.php

    ALL FROM THEIR OWN LITERATURE WITH DATES & PAGES TO SEE FOR YOURSELVES!!!

    Pages and pages of mistakes, embarrassments, false predictions, medical disasters, weird science, doctrinal failures and more for over 100 years now!

    Obviously ‘GOD’ would not get things wrong like this. Obviously ‘GOD’ did not provide bad food like that for their entire history.

    But most JWs have no idea about these things. They’re told to stay away from anything critical of their religion.

    For example: Was God’s spirit with JWs when they said Organ Transplants were a “conscience matter” in 1961?

    OR,

    Was God”s spirit with WT when they THEN SAID Organ Transplants are same as “Cannibalism” in 1967 and forbid them?

    OR, was God’s spirit with the WT when they THEN SAID Organ Transplants are NOT the same as cannibalism in 1980 and now allow them?

    Was God behind all those changes each time? Did ((GOD)) get all those things wrong each time? How many JWs like that elder above DIED by refusing kidney transplants, only later on to be told they’re OK to have now?

    Which is why some end up taking their lives due to losing their family or feel compelled to speak out about it, like me right now.

    And because I walked away JWs are demanded to shun you for life (including your very own family).

    Examine this religion and ask as many questions as you can!

    Vinny

  • The Bible was written by humans, collected by humans, translated by humans, put together by a committee of humans, with errors, contradictions, myth, allegory, and limited knowledge.
    If God had dictated it, it would probably be much simpler, and we wouldn’t need the infinite numbers of different attempts to explain it.
    And if it truly is the literal Word of God, God must think that the sun revolves around the earth.

  • Christ said nothing about homosexuality. He even declared that God will make sure that sinners of all kinds get into heaven.

  • “Oh yes, your [heterosexual] marriage IS threatened too…”

    THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Your “I know you are but what am I?” retort exposes the fact that you don’t understand the term.

  • So you finally encountered a direct, detailed answer to your original statement there,

    (you apparently thought your example, which is stellar, was a winning argument for gay marriage, when in fact it contains a direct refutation of gay marriage!),

    and so now you’re chosen to totally sidestep the given answer, and try to shift to a new argument for gay marriage, (viz, the already-falsified “born that way” or “nature” claim). But that too, just doesn’t work.

    This is not an attack, btw. But this stuff is important for all of us. Both “law” and “fairness” need to be based on TRUTH. Gay marriage fails the bar. Gotta reject it.

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  • He’s spot on. Making the Sun stand still for Joshua shows a geocentric belief – a perfectly understandable but false assumption but one that the Creator should have caught.

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses require at least two witnesses (from Jewish law) – which rarely happens in rape and abuse cases. They are also reluctant to involve the law. It’s sad.

  • Who is going to hell?

    “People like you!”

    And who is going to heaven?

    “People like me!!”

    Y’all need to work on your threats…

  • I’m disturbed by the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses oppose legislation protecting LGBT people. This would be patently false. JW’s avoid politics and would neither support nor oppose anything like this. We believe all people have the right to live as they choose, even if we don’t agree with that choice. There must have been some problem with the wording in the poll.

  • Sorry Jimmy, not whining, but EXPOSING. You’ll be ok. Losing every JW relationship you have, including your very own FAMILY, is absolutely ridiculous and sick just because someone chooses to no longer be a JW. THink about how many kids were baptized at like 12-14 years old only to later decide that being a JW was simply not for them. Maybe they wanted to pursue an education and be a doctor. Perhaps they wanted to serve and defend their country and enlist. Maybe they were good at sports and wanted to play or coach competitively. Perhaps they simply don’t believe that God chose the JW religion for anything any loinger after being one for so long.

    (((((( To then lose your parents, friends, siblings and all JWs you’ve ever known, by being completely CUT-OFF AND SHUNNED can be too much for some of these people to take. ))))))

    And many end up committing suicide because of such terrible losses at a young age! I’ve read the stories.

    And to see the video, that was shown at all district conventions last summer, where a JW mother who doesn’t even pick up the phone when her daughter calls (who’s been out of the JWs for 15 years) and be spun into what a good thing that was to do to basically BLACKMAIL her to come back, IS ABSOLUTELY PATHETIC.

    And THAT is the truth that you and others think is so wonderful?

    Most JWs are simply too brainwashed to even consider leaving their little bubbles. Which is by design. They are warned of spiritual shipwreck, being prideful, becoming “apostate” etc etc for even considering critical JW information, even if that information is 1000 percent TRUE (and all in posted IS TRUE, which is why JWs cannot refute it).

    The internet however is making even diehard and hardcore JWs see the other side of the JW picture as it truly is. The picture that PROVES God has not chosen them for anything at all and certainly proves He does not direct them today nor ever has.

    (((GOD))) would not get things wrong like too many end of world predictions to count.

    As I eventually found out, the JW religion did say, IN WRITING, that the end would come in 1914 and then again in 1925. Was Jehovah directing all that?

    1914 and 1925 came … AND WENT!

    They were proven false predictions. Period.

    They also created Beth Sarim in California (Google it) and predicted the resurrected ones would be living in a mansion. Only it never happened.

    Beth Sarim came and went!

    They also said the end very likely would happen in 1975 and even commended (in the watchtower) witnesses for selling their houses and pioneering because of it.

    But 1975 came and went!

    They also said (for many decades) that the end would come before the generation born in 1914 passed away. In fact up until 1995 it was written inside each Awake magazine cover.

    Only they then had to change that meaning as well (including the Awake masthead) because that generation CAME AND WENT TOO.

    I mean be honest with yourselves here.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted end of the world, IN WRITING, numerous times. Not once did they come true. They truly are known for False Predictions the world over.

    JWs are taught that they alone are TRUE Christians & that all other people not JW will soon be destroyed. This is no exaggeration.

    JWs will allow their own children TO DIE rather than accept life saving blood transfusion even in severe medical emergencies. It has already happened THOUSANDS of times!

    JWs used to forbid Vaccinations and Organ Transplants (calling a life saving transplant “Cannibalism”) for a combined 33 years!!!

    JW’s enforce extreme shunning for any member that decides to leave their religion or commits a sin without showing enough repentance in front of elders.

    I have seen Parents cut off all ties with their children solely because the kid did not want to remain a JW.

    Families get devastated because of these harsh shunning policies.

    Just a few things people need to know & many have NO IDEA ABOUT. And so much more I could write about.

    And probably why Russian authorities are banning them now.

    Vinny

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