Homosexuality and Religion

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Opposition to gay marriage has increased since the summer and a narrow majority of Americans also oppose allowing gays and lesbians to enter legal agreements that fall short of marriage. Moreover, despite the overall rise in tolerance toward gays since the 1980s, many Americans remain highly critical of homosexuals ­ and religious belief is a major factor in these attitudes.

A 55% majority believes it is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior, and that view is much more prevalent among those who have a high level of religious commitment (76%). About half of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of gay men (50%) and lesbians (48%), but highly religious people are much more likely to hold negative views.

Religiosity is clearly a factor in the recent rise in opposition to gay marriage. Overall, nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) oppose gay marriage, up from 53% in July. But those with a high level of religious commitment now oppose gay marriage by more than six-to-one (80%-12%), a significant shift since July (71%-21%). The public is somewhat more supportive of legal agreements for gays that provide many of the same benefits of marriage; still, a 51% majority also opposes this step.

A new national survey of 1,515 adults, conducted Oct. 15-19 by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that homosexuality in general ­ not merely the contentious issue of gay marriage ­ is a major topic in churches and other houses of worship. In fact, clergy are nearly as likely to address homosexuality from the pulpit as they are to speak out about abortion or prayer in school, say people who attend church regularly.

The clergy in evangelical churches focus considerably more attention on homosexuality ­ and address it far more negatively ­ than do ministers and priests in other denominations. Two-thirds of evangelical Protestants who attend church services at least once a month say their ministers speak...
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