Christian scholars have pushed back on a study in an American Psychological Association journal that concludes that laws designed to protect the LGBT community from discrimination do not negatively impact Christians.
The APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study in January titled “Is LGBT progress seen as an attack on Christians?: Examining Christian/sexual orientation zero-sum beliefs.”
The report was based on studies conducted with five separate sets of participants. Some of the studies included Christians, LGBT individuals and non-Christians. Participation in others was limited to Christians.
The research was conducted by Clara Wilkins, Chad Miller, Jaclyn Lisnek and Lerone Martin of Washington University in St. Louis, Joseph Wellman of the University of Mississippi and Negin Toosi of California State University East Bay.
In an interview with Fox News, George Yancey, a professor at Baylor University whose work was cited in the report, accused the authors of misleading their readers.
The scholars cited Yancey's analysis of 40 years of attitudes toward conservative Christians based on the American National Election Studies, which they claim "provides no evidence of increasing negativity toward Christians over time" and that "attitudes averaged from near neutral to positive for fundamentalist Christians."
“They accurately cited that I did not find anti-Christian sentiment increasing but did not cite that I also found that those with anti-Christian sentiment have grown more powerful in society over the past few decades,” he said in the interview. “Needless to say, even if those with anti-Christian attitudes do not increase in numbers, if they increase in power, they have more of an ability to act on their religious bigotry.”
The introduction to the report states that as social policies and laws "have changed to grant more rights to LGBT individuals," some Christians in the United States have argued that "that LGBT rights impede Christians’ religious freedom.”
The authors sought to “demonstrate that Christians’ beliefs about conflict with sexual minorities are shaped by their understandings of Christian values, social change, interpretation of the Bible, and in response to religious institutions.”
The scholars concluded that “although there have been significant social gains for sexual minorities, those do not likely correspond to increasing bias against Christians, despite some Christians’ perspectives.”
The researchers justified this conclusion by pointing to hate crime statistics finding that hate crimes against Christians constitute 9% of all crimes based on religion and 2% of hate crimes overall, while hate crimes against the LGBT community made up 20% of all hate crimes.
David Closson, the director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, told Fox News that the report provided the latest example of the idea that “Small-o orthodox Christian beliefs on marriage and sexuality are increasingly seen as not just outdated and bigoted, but as subversive and dangerous.”
The researchers attributed the belief of many Christians that an increase in LGBT rights leads to a decrease in religious liberty to a desire to “maintain group dominance.”
The authors alleged that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage and sexuality want to “relegate sexual minorities to subordinate status — perhaps as a means of reducing their social influence.”
Yancey further criticized the report's "lack of control groups," adding that failure to include real control groups occurs often "when scholars assess groups they do not like."
"A lot of concepts such as right-wing authoritarianism and Christian nationalism are true but are presented as if they are unique to conservative Christians," Yancey added. "Without relevant tests with other social groups, such claims are unfounded. I think the linking of ZSB to Christians by the authors is also premature given the lack of control groups."
The report mentioned the legalization of same-sex marriage following the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges as a source of the national debate about the conflict between freedom of religion and LGBT rights. But additional developments since that landmark Supreme Court ruling have caused religious freedom advocates significant concern.
Most notably, congressional Democrats have sought to pass the Equality Act, which proponents portray as necessary to enshrine nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community into federal law. Critics of the Equality Act describe the legislation as a threat to religious liberty, warning that it will force Americans and faith institutions to violate their deeply held beliefs about marriage, gender and sexuality.
The Equality Act explicitly prohibits religious Americans from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to exempt themselves from abiding by its provisions. The bill passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in the 116th Congress and the 117th Congress but failed to pass the Senate.
Some Republicans and faith leaders have proposed the Fairness For All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act that attempts to blend nondiscrimination provisions for the LGBT community with respect for religious liberty. The legislation has failed to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled Congress.
Even without implementing the Equality Act, Christians have faced consequences for expressing their religious beliefs on issues related to sexuality and gender.
Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia, was suspended for expressing opposition to the school district’s policy requiring teachers to refer students by pronouns that correspond with their gender identity instead of their biological gender.
Cross, a devout Christian, alleged that complying with the district’s policy would violate his faith. A judge ordered that the school district reinstate Cross because he was punished for expressing his opinion at a school board meeting in which public comment was invited.
After a lengthy court battle, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld his reinstatement Monday.
In 2015, Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired over a book he published for a church group that argued that homosexuality is a "sexual perversion" and "vulgar." He also distributed the book at work. In 2018, the city reached a $1.2 million settlement with Cochran.
In 2018, the city of Philadelphia took action to disqualify two Christian foster care agencies from working with the city's youth because they had faith-based policies that would not allow children to be placed in homes with gay parents. Although one of the agencies changed its policy to comply with the city's anti-discrimination rules, Catholic Social Services took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nation's high court unanimously ruled this summer that the city was wrong to stop working with Catholic Social Services for refusing on religious grounds not to place children with same-sex couples.
In Washington, a Christian florist faces fines for her refusal on religious grounds to provide floral arrangements to a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal this year after lower courts ruled against her.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips in 2018 after he was punished by the state for his refusal to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. However, Phillips is still in court over his refusal to bake a cake for a gender transition celebration.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org