Few Americans Give Churches Good Grades for Handling of Homosexuality

More than four in ten Americans believe places of worship are handling the issue of homosexuality either a poorly or in a way that they would grade as failing, according to the results of a new poll released Thursday.

Less than two in ten, meanwhile, would give places of worship an "A" (five percent) or a "B" (11 percent), revealed the poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. And 30 percent of those surveyed gave religious organizations a satisfactory grade, or a "C."

The poll of 1,010 adults in the continental United States found similar marks when asking whether those surveyed believed messages coming from places of worship contribute to negative views of gay and lesbian people. Forty percent responded to the question with "a lot," 32 percent said "a little," and 17 percent said "not at all."

Interestingly, however, when it came to whether or not the messages contributed to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth, only a third (33 percent) responded by saying "a lot." And more than half said either "a little" (32 percent) or "not at all" (21 percent).

Notably, of those surveyed, 44 said they personally believe sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is a sin while 46 percent said they don't.

"It has been suggested by some that Christianity itself is to blame for these tragedies - and that is its own separate tragedy," commented Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, in an opinion piece for CNN coincidentally published on the same date as the poll's release.

"The train of thought goes like this: Churches and organizations like the one I lead, which believe Scripture places homosexual activity outside of God's design for human sexuality, are responsible for the bullying of gay students and, by extension, their deaths. As provocative as that narrative may be, and it certainly has ginned up quite a lot of controversy of late, it is not accurate," he added.

Daly further argued that Christianity is not only not to blame for attacks against gays and lesbians, but is in fact "the cure for and solution to the mistreatment and abuse of anyone, for any reason," when properly interpreted and practiced.

"If there is a single golden thread woven through the Bible and the faith it informs, it is this: when it comes to human rights and how we treat each other, no person is superior or inferior to the next. Yes, sin exists; and God does not condone it. But he does embrace the sinner - and that means every one of us," the pro-family conservative added.

Notably, the PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll found that when survey takers were asked about their own church, white evangelicals were most likely to give their own church high marks for handling the issue of homosexuality. According to the results, three-quarters of white evangelicals gave their church an "A" (48 percent) or "B" (27 percent). Among white mainline Protestants and Catholics, only about four in ten gave their church an "A" or "B." Catholics were most likely to give their churches negative marks, with nearly one-third giving their churches a "D" (15 percent) or an "F" (16 percent).

The survey also found significant generational and partisan gaps on perceptions of the impact of messages about homosexuality from America's places of worship. Nearly half (47 percent) of young adults (age 18 to 34) said messages from places of worship are contributing "a lot" to negative views of gay and lesbian people. Among Americans age 65 and older, less than one-third (30 percent) said religious bodies are contributing a lot to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.

Democrats, meanwhile, were found more than twice as likely as Republicans (42 percent to 17 percent) to say places of worship are contributing to higher rates of suicide among gay youth.

Results of the PRRI/RNS survey were based on telephone interviews conducted between Oct. 14 and Oct. 17.

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