Ross Murray - Director of Religion, Faith & Values at GLAAD. Photo courtesy Ross Murray

Study says gays find most U.S. faiths unfriendly

(RNS) Gay Americans are much less religious than the general U.S. population, and about three in 10 of them say they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship, a new study shows.

The Pew Research Center’s study, released Thursday (June 13), details how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans view many of the country’s prominent faiths: in a word, unfriendly.

The vast majority said Islam (84 percent); the Mormon church (83 percent); the Roman Catholic Church (79 percent); and evangelical churches (73 percent) were unfriendly. Jews and nonevangelical Protestants drew a more mixed reaction, with more than 40 percent considering them either unfriendly or neutral about gays and lesbians.

Ross Murray - Director of Religion, Faith & Values at GLAAD. Photo courtesy Ross Murray

Ross Murray - Director of Religion, Faith & Values at GLAAD. Photo courtesy Ross Murray

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives for the gay rights group GLAAD, said relations between the religious and gay communities have warmed in recent years, but before the last decade they were “pretty painful.”

He thinks the sense of unfriendliness comes in part from the loudest voices of faith speaking through an anti-gay frame. Religious groups that support gays and lesbians, as a GLAAD study found last year, get far less media attention.

“The leading anti-gay voices always put it in religious terms, which taints how people view religion,” Murray said.

While Pew researchers found that U.S. gays noted increased social acceptance, 29 percent of those surveyed said they personally have felt unaccepted in a house of worship. That compares to 39 percent who say they’ve been rejected by a close friend or family member, and 21 percent who say they’ve been treated unfairly by an employer.

Almost 50 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults say they have no religious affiliation, compared to 20 percent of the general population. One-third of religiously affiliated gay and lesbian adults say there is a conflict between their faith beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Although many gay Americans seem to eschew faith, the majority of those who are religiously affiliated are Christian – 42 percent. Two percent are Jewish and 8 percent belong to another non-Christian faith.

Just like the general public, younger gays and lesbians are less likely to have religious ties. But while nearly one-third of 18- to 29-year-olds in the general public are not affiliated with a religion, almost double that share – 60 percent – of gays and lesbians in that age group are unaffiliated.

The Pew survey was based on interviews from April 11-29 with 1,197 self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.



  1. This does not excuse any unwelcoming behavior by houses of worship, but I’m not entirely sure these results mean anything. I would imagine that at least 3/10 Americans (regardless of gender, sexual preference, etc) have felt unwelcome in a house of worship.

  2. Some might also ask why so many gays do not attend the Metropolitan Community Churches or The Episcopal Churches.despite their longtime 100 percent gay-affirming aspects (especially the MCC, which is like 200 percent)..

    Perhaps there is another dynamic going on there. Perhaps some inherent incompatibilities between being gay and being Christian? It might be interesting to explore that aspect.

  3. “Some might also ask why so many gays do not attend the Metropolitan Community Churches or The Episcopal Churches.”

    How do you know that “so many gays” don’t attend those churches?

  4. I guess religions need a friendlier way of explaining that their faith doesn’t allow for homosexuality.
    Ultimately, just cuz they’re offended doesn’t mean they’re right.

  5. “So many” gays and allies would GLADLY go to an MCC or ECC if they were readily accessible. MCC are (as indicated by the name) only available in more heavily populated areas. Those of us who are not in major cities don’t have access to affirming churches… so we don’t go at all.

  6. Can some one please tell Doognitz the difference between being called or identifying yourself as “gay” and being called or identifying yourself as “homosexual”.

  7. MCC parishes and Episcopal parishes don’t exist everywhere. Many Episcopal dioceses and parishes are still far from “gay friendly” (South Carolina, Northern Indiana, Albany, Middle Tennessee– just to name a few). Also, I can imagine that the initial instinct when someone hears that first “fire and brimstone” sermon rallying against “the gays” is not to find a new church, but to never ever ever step foot into a church lest they expose themselves to hurtful words under the guise of “love” again.

  8. Part of it has to do with the right to identify yourself the way you wish to be identified– and a lot of that has to do with the tone surrounding particular terms. “Homosexuals” is a term that I associate with Evangelical preachers who are trying to emphasize “sexual immorality” and focusing on sexual acts exclusively. To me, and probably to most of the lesbian and gay community, sexual orientation is more than what goes on in the bedroom. So in my mind at least, “gay” is a little more inclusive of these other aspects. It’s certainly a terminology tightrope, and I struggle myself to find precisely the right words despite dealing with LGBT issues on a daily basis!!

  9. I agree with your point. Important doctrinal disagreement in itself produces a kind of “unfriendliness” between groups, in the more general sense. Even when one group is trying madly to be welcoming and loving they can still be perceived as unfriendly due to the deep-seated disagreement between the two groups. If gays and lesbians define “friendliness” as nothing short of full acceptance of what they are then in the end there may be no real solution.

  10. I am thinking the same thing. I am not gay/lesbian, and I have found at least the evangelicals that predominate my area to be definitely unfriendly and socially ‘closed’ to anyone that doesn’t already ‘sound like/talk like/act like themselves. Those raised in that environment ‘speak their own language,’ use words and phrases differently than common among the non-religious or even just not of their particular type church, creating occasion for a lot of misunderstanding in conversation with ‘outsiders,’ which many there actually acknowledge and are proud of. They see it as part of their ‘superiority’ and attribute it to being more spiritual than outsiders, when its really a communication dysfunction.
    Many are even suspicious and even rude to those ‘of their own’ in/from churches other than their own. “Clannish” is the best term I can think of.

  11. Originally born and raised in a Louisiana city of about 68,000 population I found a church home in a congregation of Alliance of Baptists. Not only is it Christian but also is gay accepting/affirming and ordains gay ministers male and female. Now that I’m in Dallas, TX I’ve found not only MCC churches but also Alliance of Baptists and United Church of Christ. UCC also is gay accepting/affirming and ordains gay ministers male and female. An internet search under these denomination names or acronyms plus your home zip code should provide a list of churches of preference near you. So far I’ve found them all to be friendly.

  12. Theoretically, Christian churches hate the sin and love the sinner.

    So theoretically gays should find Christian churches not just friendly but loving.

    If, however, they want to bring their sin right into church and have that loved and cherished too, then they will be disappointed. But I hope that all gays who really want to sin no more will find the Church welcoming and loving.

    And if they want to embrace their sin and have the Church admire it, they’re out of luck. All of us must renounce our sin before the Church can help us, though it may take a lifetime or more, and the grace of God, to truly overcome sin.

  13. It is vitally important that people of faith who support LGBT people and who are working for equality because of our beliefs speak up! We cannot cede faith to those who oppose us. For more on this from a Catholic perspective , see recent piece at

  14. I find your thought to be interesting..Homosexuals want the church to change doctrine to suit their lifestyle and that will not happen..Then we have coment like the church not being” homosexual friendly”..There are nine places in the bible which condem homosexuality..The message is clear, like most sins homosexuality is especially wrong beause it goes against Gods natural order..Up to the 1980s homosexuality was considered a disorder by medical professionals throughout the world..Powerful lobbying by homosexuals have changed that designation to “alternative lifestyle”..If one is involved in this lifestyle choice, the best advice would be to seek councelling

Leave a Comment