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October 21st, 2010
03:14 PM ET

Churches contribute to gay suicides, most Americans believe

Fort Worth Texas Councilman Joel Burns’ videotaped story about being gay and bullied as a child recently went viral on the internet.

Two out of three Americans believe gay people commit suicide at  least partly because of messages coming out of churches and other places of  worship, a survey released Thursday found.

More than four out of 10 Americans say the message coming out of churches  about gay people is negative, and about the same number say those messages  contribute "a lot" to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.

Catholics were the most critical of their own churches' messages on  homosexuality, while white evangelical Christians gave their churches the  highest grades, the survey found.

The Public Religion Research Institute asked 1,017 Americans their views  on religion and homosexuality between October 14 and 17, in the wake of a highly publicized rash of suicides by gay people.

Gay rights campaigner Dan Savage said the idea that churches send out an  anti-gay message "totally jibes with my experience and that of millions of  other gay and lesbian people."

He cited Joel Burns, a Forth Worth, Texas, city councilman whose  emotional tale of being bullied as a young gay man went viral on the internet.

"He remembers being told to go home and commit suicide and that he was  going to hell," Savage said, adding that the source of such attitudes "wasn't  in algebra."

Leaders of the Christian right "have redefined Christianity so that it is  about being anti-gay," he said.

And he cited other poll findings that suggest more Americans than ever  before define themselves as having no religion.

"When you dig down, you found people who said they were Christians who  didn't want to be identified with being anti-gay," he argued.

But Jim Daly, the head of Focus on the Family, argued in a commentary for  CNN that Christian churches are not to blame.

"To violate the dignity of another person, in any form or fashion, is to  contradict the very basis of Gospel-centered living. And to suggest that an  orthodox understanding of Christianity encourages abuse against homosexuals is  a sad misreading of the very tenets of the faith," he said.

"Some self-described Christians do not act in Christ-like ways toward  those who are different than they are," he conceded.

"They save their harshest judgments for the sins they don't struggle with  themselves. That is not biblical Christianity in practice," he said.

Only five out of 100 people gave churches generally an A for their  handling of "the issue of homosexuality" in the Public Religion Research Institute survey, while 28 percent said their own church handled it well.

One in three people said that messages from places of worship contribute  "a lot" to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.

Another one in  three said they contribute "a little." Only one in five said they do not  contribute at all. The rest said they did not know.

Americans were equally split on whether homosexual relationships between  adults are wrong, with 44 percent saying yes and 46 percent saying no.

The sampling margin on the survey, a joint project of PRRI and Religion News Service, is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Gay rights • Polls • United States

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soundoff (681 Responses)
  1. A Voice

    Well I have found this all very interesting. I am a Messianic Jew, who happens to be black, conservative, and gay (My friends call me the ACLU nightmare). I have believe that my relationship with G-d is real and that my faith in him has brought peace to my life. I was suicidal as a teen due to not understanding the feelings I have had towards other guys since I was 5. The slogan "it gets better" is true, as I got older I was surrounded by people that loved me regardless and it is in that environment that I was able to come to accept myself and love myself.

    The truth of the matter as I see it, is that the Bible has gone through many translations and interpretations from mankind. We are not perfect, and therefore neither is our work. Those who believe in the Bible operate on faith that it is the Word of G-d as it stands today. In the gospel, Jesus only referred to man's relationship with G-d when a sin was pointed out (he always had the accuser look at themselves). When he sent out the 12 & the 70 he said if the message was not accepted to kick the dust off your feet and move to the next town.... not force them to believe as you do and change their political and social views.

    It is unfortunate that "Christian" is no longer associated with a person that loves G-d and his fellow man... it is viewed by many as an organization of hate and small-minded thinking... is it true? Who knows. Many of my friends no longer call themselves "Christian", they call themselves "Believers" or followers of "The Way" as they were originally called.

    I strongly feel that if those that profess to believe that Jesus is the Christ, were to actually follow His example, might actually reflect His love and draw others to Him instead of getting the opposite result. The prophet Hosea is an example that G-d will do as he chooses... in today's standard Hosea would have been persecuted by the Christian Community and ended up being chase down by the media for comment, and Focus on the Family, National Organization for Marriage, and others would have distanced themselves from him.

    Let's not judge what G-d is doing in someone's life... cause honestly, you have no idea.

    October 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @A Voice
      Very well said, indeed. (ACLU nightmare -lol) 😀

      October 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Muneef

    The existence of Gays and Lesbians is in all nations and it is resisted by all nations on the grounds of Religions or Customs and Traditions among tribes or societies or families being considered as bringing shame and anger upon those who he lives under their wings and times if does not repent they might end him to save face. So this issue is not limited to certain factor.
    Beside another thing is probable is that those committing suicide are the ones who were abused into it and became as they are. But those who walked into it with desire to become would not think of suicide and would challenge all odds because he only made the choice and knowing the difficulties laid ahead of him..

    October 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  3. HeIsGod

    So those who are not gay, but are murderers and commit suicide are Christians fault too? Come on, even the Word of God talks about so many abaminational sins and being gay is not just one of them. There are some gay people that don't even believe in God and hide behind Atheism or Agnostics. All man to his own deeds. We are going to face God, INDIVIDUALLY, not in groups. Sin will bring DEATH, but salvation brings LIFE through Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

    Now, I don't know much about a gay Christian, but I will say this, if they are gay Christian people out there, please look to God for wisdom and understanding.

    October 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  4. Me Tarzan, You Jane

    People are crying over gays committing suicide? They are already committing suicide. Genetic suicide for starters. AIDs is the other form of suicide. Who cares if they use a rope, a bridge, or take their sweet time with AIDS offing themselves. It simply makes the news that much more interesting to read.

    October 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  5. Sabina

    My brother, who was schizophrenic, commited suicide. This was considered a sin in the Catholic church. Not only did we have to live with the grief and stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, but we had to live with the shame from the church that my brother was a sinner and would burn in hell for all eternity. To say that my family was devastated would be an understatement. There ought to be a law against this type of abuse perpetuated by a religion.

    October 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Sabina
      I agree. ...and don't worry, if God exists and is good, there should be no worries for anyone. You have my support and best wishes for you and your family.

      October 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  6. Oreally

    I really feel bad for the "bullied" Christians. If only they had places where they could get together – some holding thousands of fellow believers – where they could get together at least once a week to have fellowship, be supported, and reinforce their beliefs without ever having to challenge them. If only there was a national news source – like, say, Fox – where a conservative social agenda, characterized as "values-based," could be promulgated. If only there were shows – maybe a 600, wait, no, 700 club; and even whole television networks – devoted to promotion of their faith, and providing justification for their fear of anything that they don't (or refuse to) understand. If only they lived in a country where politicians are forced to wear their religion on their sleeve. Oh, wait...

    October 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  7. BSchurch

    Even my dog knows anti-gay speeches are coming out from the churches. Those evil SOTB christians have blood of poor gay kids on their bloody hands. I hope those gullible christians can sleep at night!

    October 22, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  8. Joe

    On September 22, 2000, a 55-year-old man named Ronald E. Gay, angry for being teased about his last name, entered the Back Street Café in Roanoke, Virginia, a gathering place for lesbians and gays just a few miles from Lynchburg. Confident that God's Word supported his tragic plan of action, Mr. Gay shouted, "I am a Christian soldier, working for my Lord." Claiming that "Jesus does not want these people in his heaven," he shot seven innocent gay and lesbian people. One man, Danny Overstreet, died instantly. Others still suffer from their physical and psychological wounds.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  9. JohnQuest

    Frank, I have a question for you and all others that think like you (assuming you are straight), when did you decide to be straight? Were you sitting around thinking that "hey I am attracted to this guy and I am attracted to this girl, which do I choose"? Most of us never made a choice, I never "decided" to be straight, I just am. If you had to make the choice, then you are by nature Bi-Se xual, is that what you are telling us, that you like both men and women the same and you "decided" to just be with one instead of the other?

    October 22, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  10. Steve (UK)

    On a positive front, at least in the US you can print an article like this without the police visiting your offices and threatening to arrest you for inciting religious hatred! In Britain you can go to prison for even suggesting any link between the two, despite evidence that antigay violence increases whenever the Christian Right publically spouts its sincere beliefs on television. For example see: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_061018advert.shtml

    October 22, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  11. Kevin

    This is one of the dumbest stories ever. Clearly, this is just another attempt to demonize Christianity and further portray gays as victims at the same time. Are churches also responsible for suicides among adulterers, thieves, and gamblers? I can almost guarantee that these same religious denominations that are hurting the feelings of gay people also preach AGAINST SUICIDE. I wonder what the poll results were for Muslims? They are pretty tolerant towards alternative lifestyles, right? The fact that people will call me a bigot for even bringing this up is a testament to the double standard that it is okay to bash Christianity all to hell, but we have to be sensitive towards everyone else. Are we going to have to stop teaching "sticks and stones..." to our kindergarteners, because apparently it is not true for everyone any longer in our increasingly overly PC society?

    October 22, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  12. mbar

    The argument of choice vs. biology is not relevant. The point here is how do we, as Christians, treat other people. PERIOD! If someone "choses" to be gay, or is "born" gay, is no matter; how we treat our fellow brothers and sisters is of utmost importance. Equally as important is how we are teaching or children to treat others; it is just as easy to teach a child to love as it is to hate. This also applies to race, religion and political affiliation. Let's all work toward bettering the HUMAN race!

    October 22, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  13. stevie68a

    There are thousands of children worldwide that die of starvation, yet the church does not have the fervor addressing this.
    Too many of these "christers" are full of hate. Their cloak of love hides the hate. Just wolves in sheep's clothing.
    People are different. It is not a moral failure to be gay. This is no choice, as is with height, skin color, etc.
    People who harm gay people in any way, should remember that what goes around, comes around.

    October 22, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  14. ophu

    responding to an earlier post, i strongly suspect that when someone says "give me a break!", what they really mean is "you're attacking my long-held worldview and belief system! give them a break!" or "you may be reaching my TV audience and making them listen to something i don't want them to hear! give my ratings a break!" or even "i don't want my bigotry to be exposed by reduction of people who share it! i don't want to be forced into the closet with the rest of the dwindling number of other people who hold bigoted views! safety in numbers! give me a break!"

    October 22, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  15. HeIsGod

    o Sum Dude – Your commented:
    @HeisGod
    Too scared to admit that your prayers do not work? I'm just sitting here waiting, you know.
    If you have any pretensions to any faith at all in that blackened heart of yours, then get on the ball and contact God, Jesus, or anyone you think could help you with my simple request and get the ball rolling.
    Try going through Jesus, since that's what he said to do. No Pope needed. Contact God through Jesus. Go ahead.
    @ SamDude – LOL, you seem to be such a miserable person. Do you know me that well to state that my prayers have never been answered? What do you really know about my faith? Wow, you are very miserable; I can see that without of doubt. My heart really goes out to you. I reach God through Christ for myself, family, and others, but how will you know that I can reach God for you of you are spiritually blind? The Word of God has fallen on your deaf ears, so how can you know God if you can’t hear Him? It isn’t I who needs to reach God, it is you who needs to reach out to Him, I already have or not, I would be speaking as bitter as you have.

    You need Christ in your blackened stone heart that doesn’t allow you to have the peace that you need. Only Christ can set you free, no me, the Pope (BTW, I don’t even believe in him to begin with), Pastor, Minister, or any Evangelist. Christ is the Mediator between man and God.

    October 22, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • Sum Dude

      @HeIsGod
      LOL
      You think my love for everyone in the world shows I have a blackened heart of stone? LOL
      If you are unwilling to ask God to contact me, don't blame me for what appears to be a definite lack of results on my end.

      I look at the world and consider there may be a "God", and evaluate the data to the best of my ability using reason and logic.
      Then I look at people like you who spew hateful comments, acting arrogant and making snide remarks, and your assertions that you "follow" this "God"....and what do you think I come up with?

      I think you are simply "projecting" yourself onto me without realizing what you are doing, to be honest.

      October 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  16. Bob

    the people who wrote the Bible were human. except for Jesus they were subject to err. Churches often cite St. Paul but he was only human like us and quite probably erred in many of his teachings.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • lr

      Bob... Jesus didn't actually write the bible with his own two hands.

      October 25, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  17. Lee McKinney

    What happened to love thy neighbor and love everyone as u love yourself.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  18. Disgusted American

    As I have mentioned Numerous times in many threads....NO Sky God/he/she/it is judging us.....
    ..In OUR Galaxy with 100's of Billions of Starts/Sun­s/Planets, which is 100,000 light yrs across..in a Universe with 100's of Billions of Galaxies...we humans are NOT that Important in the Size & Vastness of the "known" Universe...we are but a mere Spec of dust in the cosmos......There ARE More Stars/Suns in the Universe then there are Grains of sand on the planet earth...There ARE More Stars/Suns in the Universe then there are Grains of sand on the planet earth...Get it!!! There is NO God Judging us Puney humans and what we do with our Hoo-hoos and pee-pees...Its Man-made BS to keep the sheeple/people in Line and in Fear, and the Coffers Full $$$$, expand your mind!
    http://www­.youtube.c­om/watch?v­=oAVjF_7en­sg

    October 22, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  19. KK

    the truth of the matter is this...churches and christians tend to categorize sins as one being worse thatn another...in the eyes of God its all the same..He died for it all..past present and future...Churches tend to have you believe you have to get re born and re born and reborn..i had a pastor at one time who said from the pulpit.."You drink, you going to hell"...Please..i knew at that point i was in the wrong place...most kids and teens dont do to their pastors for help if they need it because the church is really not equipped to deal with it from a love, mercy, grace basis which is what God is ALL ABOUT...so they feel condemmed , hopeless and that they have no choice...The church is a huge problem...we are all going to die with some sin in our life because we are human and not perfect by any means, so does that mean you automatically go to hell??? OF COURSE NOT< you are covered past present and future by HIS blood...Christians need to treat the outside world like they treat their church people in stead of most of them sitting there and ministering to the "already saved"...

    October 22, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  20. sheetiron

    And, the 2,000 year old persecution of the Christian religion continues.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:12 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.