Chart of the Day: Religion and Gay Marriage

Last week, Pew Research reported on the latest update in their continuing series of surveys on American attitudes to same-sex marriage. The headline finding, that for the first time fewer than half the sample opposed gay marriage was widely reported, as was the finding that support has been growing steadily since polling first began. From the viewpoint of the Churches, a further finding, that support is growing in all denominational sectors, and that opposition among Mainline Protestants has collapsed dramatically, had somewhat less attention.

Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise (as I did last week) that the battle over marriage equality has largely moved on from a struggle between the Christian churches and the rest, to one being waged within the churches. This prepared by the Economist from the Pew data shows the point clearly: Atheists, the unaffiliated and Jews show clear support.   White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are divided, but with pluralities in support, and have shown clear movement towards acceptance in recent years.

Only Blacks and White Evangelicals continue to show strong opposition, but even in these groups there has been some modest growth in support since the previous survey (for 2oo8/9). We can expect that within a few years, even these groups will become more closely divided, given the pronounced support among the youngest people from all religious backgrounds, while on the other side of the divide, there will be more Protestant denominations and local congregations moving to accept same sex marriage, even in church.

Gay marriage: coming (soon?) to a church near you.

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It feels like a stuck record to say so, but some bishops and the politicos who favour them, still aren’t getting the message, so we have to keep repeating it. Most US Catholics support gay marriage! Support is growing, and even accelerating. Catholics are more supportive than the population as a whole. The pattern is repeated right across the globe. So, it is simply untrue to say that “the Catholic Church” opposes marriage or family equality. The strongest case they can make against it is that the formal teaching of the institutional church (or Vatican doctrine) is against same sex marriage.

In common with the the rest of the country, further segmenting the sample shows that in the church too, there is a generational divide. Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitutional reflects on the broader, international context of the growth in  support for marriage equality, and headlines:

Gay marriage: Coming soon to a country near you

Even more than Catholics, ,mainline Protestants support full marriage equality.  We could validly restate the Atlanta Journal Constitutional headline, as I often have in the past,

Gay marriage: Coming soon to a church near you

This is the graph from Pew Research:

The corollary of growth in support for marriage is that opposition is dropping. Taken togetber, this means that although the opposition had a 17 point advantage over the supporters a year ago, that margin has now shrunk to just 6 points for the population as  a whole. For a whole bunch of demogtaphic sub-groups, there are more supporters of gay marriage than opponents, notably those mainline Protestants and Catholics, but also including women and the all-important younger age groups, whose views will in time come to dominate. The dramatic upswing in support is not just coming from the rise of a new generation, though. Even within specific generations, people are shifting their views.

The shift in opinion on same-sex marriage has been broad-based, occurring across many demographic, political and religious groups. Notably, pluralities of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics now favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally – the first time this has occurred in Pew Research Center surveys.

Pew Research

(Other research shows that the shifts are strongest among people who come to recognize specific family members, friends and colleagues who are openly gay. This is the great value to the community of people coming out openly, including coming out in church, or as a married couple. Every public wedding increases visibility and erodes opposition.)

(Scheduled post for tomorrow: “Gay Marriage: Coming (Soon?) to a Church Near You.“)

Queering the Church:


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“Real Catholicism”: Blind Loyalty, or a Search for Truth?

Since Archbishop Vincent Nichols repudiated Edmund Adamus’ claim that the UK is the world centre of a “culture of death”, John Smeaton at SPUC has worked himself up into a froth, once again:

The UK, not the US, China, North Korea or any other country you care to mention, has always been the main operating base and favourite milieu of the movement for abortion, contraception and eugenics…………

John Smeaton. SPUC Director

Is he living on the same planet I am? China has a rigid policy enforcing the national limit of one child per family:

……authorities claim that the policy has prevented more than 250 million births from its implementation to 2000. The policy is controversial both within and outside China because of the manner in which the policy has been implemented, and because of concerns about negative economic and social consequences. The policy has been implicated in an increase in forced abortions, female infanticide, and under-reporting of female births, and has been suggested as a possible cause behind China’s gender imbalance. Nonetheless, a 2008 survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center showed that over 76% of the Chinese population supports the policy.

– yet it is the UK which has the culture of death?

The problem with the rabid exponents of Catholic “orthodoxy” is that they can see teaching only in strictly one-dimensional terms. Read the rest of this entry »

NJ Catholics Support Gay Marriage.

Once again, research has shown that Catholics support same-sex marriage. This is entirely in keeping with Catholic teaching on social justice.   Earlier, Pew research demonstrated this at a national level (and also showed that Catholics do not see “homosexuality” as immoral.  See  “Catholics Support Gay Marriage”).   Now, research from New Jersey’ s  Rutgers university finds the same thing. (Somebody should tell the bishops.)

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite opposition from the Catholic Church, New Jersey Catholics generally support legalizing gay marriage, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Among Catholics, 48 percent support gay marriage, while 40 percent oppose and 12 percent are undecided. Protestants hold the opposite view, with only 34 percent supporting and 55 percent opposing gay marriage; 11 percent are undecided. Jewish respondents support gay marriage, 56 percent to 40 percent, with 4 percent undecided, while those with no religion preference are the most supportive, at 85 percent to only 10 percent opposed (5 percent undecided).

The poll of 903 New Jersey adults was fielded November 6-10 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. Half the respondents also had been interviewed before the Nov. 3 elections. The gay marriage questions were asked only after Election Day.

Religion and support for gay marriage in New Jersey

Catholics, 46 percent of all respondents, generally support same-sex marriage and 53 percent believe that if the Legislature approves a gay marriage bill, it should be accepted. They do not see the issue as one of the most important facing the state – 46 percent say the issue is “not at all important.”

“As with several social issues, many Catholics support a more liberal public policy than does the Church itself,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Given that Catholics comprise the largest religious group in the state, this makes a difference in overall support for gay marriage in New Jersey, especially since a majority of Protestants – many of whom are Evangelicals – oppose the bill.”

Strong opposition from Evangelicals drives much Protestant opposition to same-sex marriage – 67 percent of those who call themselves “born-again” or “Evangelical” Christians oppose gay marriage, while only 24 percent support it and 9 percent are undecided. Among non-Evangelical Protestants, 47 percent support gay marriage and 37 percent oppose it.

“The one religious group strongly opposed to gay marriage is Evangelical Christians, whether they consider themselves Protestant or Catholic,” said Redlawsk. “This group comprises 20 percent of respondents. The other 80 percent of respondents support gay marriage by margins of 12 to 40 points, depending on their religious preference.”

Attendance at religious services makes a difference

Poll results suggest that frequency of attendance at religious services is more important than a particular religious tradition in structuring attitudes towards gay marriage. Only 27 percent of those who attend services at least weekly support gay marriage, compared to 43 percent of those who attend monthly and 62 percent of those who seldom or never attend services. Overall, 29 percent of respondents say they attend services once a week or more often, 30 percent at least monthly, and 41 percent say they attend “seldom” or “never.” One-third of Catholics say they attend services at least weekly, and this group opposes gay marriage, 57 percent to 37 percent.

“The gay marriage issue is being framed as one of civil rights for gays and lesbians versus strong religious traditions favoring marriage between a man and a woman,” said Redlawsk. “Of the demographic differences between supporters and opponents, the clearest is based on religiosity – the frequency of attendance at services. While those who attend most often are most opposed, they represent a small share of all New Jersey residents. Every other group shows more support than opposition, regardless of the particular religion.”

Who cares about the issue?

Though Evangelical Christians strongly oppose gay marriage, they do not consider it an important issue in New Jersey, paralleling the view of other religious groups. Only 2 percent of Evangelicals call gay marriage the “most important” issue, while another 14 percent say it is “very important” and 34 percent “somewhat important.” The same is true of all other religious groups in the survey. “While the issue matters to a very small but passionate group on both sides, by far, most New Jerseyans of all stripes think there are more critical issues that need to be addressed,” Redlawsk said. “This suggests that regardless how a legislator votes, at the next election, this vote will be far less important to potential re-election than most other issues the Legislature will deal with.

Catholics Support Gay Marriage; Homosexuality “Not a Moral Issue”

Once again, research has shown that by a small margin, Catholics “support gay marriage” (Pew Research Centre) – the only one of the major religious groupings identified that does so. (The strongest support for marriage equality comes from the “unaffiliated” sector, with the strongest opposition from white evangelicals.)

Support for gay marriage

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