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. Bobington

    I have just been inspired to start to donate money to my church again!

    October 29, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  2. jstueart

    There are many churches nowadays that are changing their theology, realizing they got it wrong in the past. Thank God. But for those who are digging their heels in, and re-affirming their anti-gay arguments, the gay suicides lie on their doorstep. These churches purport to be the voice of God–and with a seminarian tangling up the message, ascribing to God words he did not say nor did he ever mean, our young gay and lesbian men and women are hearing that the church is merely doing the work of God, merely quoting the scripture, and in that moment refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of their words. It's hard to show people that God is love when the static of bad churches drowns out the message.

    October 26, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  3. Anti-What?

    Committing suicide only assures a gay persons place in Hell. A gay person can become a christian but not if he continues a gay lifestyle.

    October 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
  4. Too Much Knowledge

    The Word of God is going to stand all by itself. The Bible will not change because a sample size or a whole nation because something in the Bible does not agree with popular culture. This is what is wrong in the United States today. We are asking people to live according to what is popular at the time.
    There are eternal truths that transcend what is popular and what is not.

    If some people are not the best messengers of the (the Bible, the Word of God) that does not mean that the Word of God is wrong.

    I can't understand something. If people don't believe in Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible why do they care what the Bible or those believe say or do? Just write them off as crazy and be done with it.

    October 24, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
    • Magic

      Too Much Knowledge,

      "If people don't believe in Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible why do they care what the Bible or those believe say or do."

      We care because your goal is to control our lives and our country according to those beliefs.

      First you must prove that there IS a "God", then you must prove that the Bible is its 'Word'.

      October 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • lr

      Just look around Magic... there's plenty of proof of God. If not, then you're nothing but an oil slick

      October 25, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  5. Peace2All

    @Sum Dude

    YOU SAID...

    "Sorry, bro. I think I am not as nice as you. It bothers me sometimes.
    All I can do is apologize if I have caused you pain with my harsh words."

    MOI-– Is this one of those times where I should 'not' forgive you so quickly, as you have mentioned that it has bothered you in the past...? 🙂 Thank you for the apology anyway. However, I think I know you well-enough by now, to understand you, when you are just putting thoughts to paper... and when your 'intention' is to be vicious or insulting. And, we seem to be in alignment in general, in our approach, thinking and postings. So, thank you again, but I believe that you are c-o-m-ing from a good place in regards to me. So, no apology was necessary. But, if you feel the need to apologize... that is cool, as it is your 'deal.'

    Sometimes on these blogs, writing's can often be misinterpreted, so my policy is typically better to be safe, than sorry, especially when it comes to the one's you would call 'friends'...or at least your 'cyber-friends'.

    You said...

    "I am a callous old crank. I'm afraid I understand "no one's" post all too well."

    MOI-- O.K... I will just have to take you at your word and self-assessment (I am a callous old crank). 🙂 However, my friend, no need for self-deprication as I find you to be one of my many friends on here. So, yikes... what could that possibly make me, if you're a callous old crank...? 🙂 However, in my opinion, you seem to have a lot of compassion and concern for people as well.

    When you say you 'understand' "no one's" post all too well. Isn't it (possible) that you are, making assumptions(interpreted differently) as I...? Again, 'you' are making assumptions too, and seemingly acting as if, yours seem to be the right 'take' on what he/she wrote... yes..? We are both looking at the 'same' posting, and you are taking issue with what I posted, and asserting yours, 'as if' you have 'the truth' on his/her post... as you said..(I'm afraid I understand "no one's post all too well."

    Maybe you do, again, if you read my postings above, just 'in case' this person was 'reaching out' for help.... I wanted to be there for that person. Yes, I did it in 'my' own way, but I believe I gave enough qualifiers on my postings.

    YOU SAID...

    "If I met the person, I would sit with them, saying nothing but being agreeable to giving them every consideration for their personal freedoms and rights to self-determination."

    MOI– And I too, if I actually 'met' this person would do the same. We are in agreement. And.... I would think that if, my 'take' on @no one's post was accurate, and.... he/she was truly asking for 'help' and wanting to live a life that could bring him/her some peace and joy, without just waiting for death... then, I would do everything in my power to help.

    And.... I am guessing that deep down, as you have posted before, you have a love of humanity,... YOU would help too. If... the person asked for help. Yes...?

    Since we 'don't' have the option of sitting down with @no one... then again, my post stands as for the reasons stated, and why i fully chose, knowing full well, that there are dozens of reasons and intentions of where @no one was posting from.

    YOU SAID...

    "Death is a strange topic. An ending of physiological consciousness at the very least, and the beginning of a possible extension of being past our ability to discern the truth of."

    MOI- We are in 'full' agreement.

    YOU SAID...

    "A strange topic. Freedom I understand. Death I do not know what happens.
    Your personal NDE is not definitive, for you survived."

    MOI- Again agreed... And.... let me re-iterate my standing as an 'agnostic,' in the truest fullest sense of the word.. yes..? I 'do not' know what happens either, and... I am (lucky ?) enough to have been to the 'edge' and back, with some experiences. Which I will continue to explore for the rest of my life.

    YOU SAID...

    "There is more than one possibility in terms of continuation of what we loosely term a "soul", yet it is all conjecture and supposition. No one has yet returned in a manner conducive to confidence in the matter."

    MOI-- Please reference my previous response. And, yes, of course, it is my personal non-scientific opinion, I believe that one day we will know...


    October 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Wow! And here I had been wondering if you were going to respond....! lol
      I wasn't trying to blow your mind, but I tend to shock people regardless. Thanks for not freaking out.

      As to whether we will be able to "know" or not, without anything to go on, we can't even say that we will "know", "perceive", "understand", or any number of similar words that are often used in this sort of discussion.
      If we just stop – nothing else happens.

      There is the technical possibility that the "information" related to our consciousness could be gathered and processed, but information theory in physics is shaky – I plug it in where it seems to fit, but the conjectures are very loose – yet the possibilities remain if one uses physics.....!

      Yes, I understand "no one's" post pretty well as written. I reserve the right to "suicide" when the time seems right. It is my body and what I do with it is my own business unless it infringes upon the rights of others.

      But I am callous in trying to be objective about it. The truth of reality is not likely to be emotional in example.

      Grr, this stupid language! We stumble with words. It was better when I never said anything....!
      Peace to you and all. We either meet on the other side or we don't. Worrying about it seems silly. 😀

      October 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude

      Lol..!! It seems that we or 'I'm' not getting my *meaning* across to you. That is my responsibility.

      Yes... You have the right, to take your life. As does @no one. =agreed.

      Yes... life after death... I stated 'my personal' "OPINION" from my experience. That's it..! It was just an after comment. I am aware that it means nothing to 'absolute reality.' =We are in agreement.

      And.... Yes... you probably shoudn't have commented on this and left it alone, as WE ARE IN AGREEMENT...!!

      Are you 'trying' to k-i-ll me...? Do you know what I'm doing right now...? Yep, you guessed it, I am 'bangin' my head against the wall..!!!

      You can probably hear the noise right now from wherever you are..!!!!!! 🙂


      October 24, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  6. Gary

    being gay is natural for those born that way....Trying to act straight when you were born gay is against nature and in my opinion against any God.

    October 24, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  7. Gary

    folks are either born Gay or born straight....period

    October 24, 2010 at 9:58 am |
    • lr

      and your proof is?

      October 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  8. HeisGod

    What cnn and gays taught me:

    Hate the church: Open minded. Love the church: Bigot. Hate God?: Open minded. Love God?: Bigot. Embrace gays?:Open minded. Don't embrace gays? Bigot. Absence of values? Open minded. Possess values? Bigot. Burn a bible? Open minded. Read a bible? Bigot. Encourage more people to be gay? Open minded. Refuse to encourage? Bigot.

    Tolerance as defined by liberals: A one way street.

    @ Jeff – Ain't that the TRUTH? Satan always seems to twist what is good and what is evil.

    October 23, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      HeisGod = jeff
      no surprise there.
      clueless, to the last.

      October 24, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  9. Nate

    I lived in SLC Utah for a while and the liberal pro gay community in the city was sounding the alarm as Utah has sky high suicide rates of LGB teen within the LDS church. Many LGB survivors (nearly all) were shunned from their families after coming out, not even allowed to set foot on the property of their former homes. Another kid was given electroshock treatment and heavily medicated to cure his "mental illness"
    Churches DO contribute to gay hate, and have used this issue to mobilize their flocks politically. Just sickening...

    October 23, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  10. Michael Fleicher

    I have no interest in debating anyone, and my goal is not to attack anyone's personal opinions or faith. Happily society is learning to become more empathetic towards one another as Jesus wished it to be.This was only meant to be a brief stop, and so I need to leave, but not without leaving you with something to think about. When Christ walked the earth, with whom did he fellowship and how did he instruct us to treat others? Was he friends with the religious and high minded, or the humble sinners and harlots? Peace to all of you.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  11. ICEMAN

    Unless you can dig up those dead Gay men and women and ask them then um that polls means crap to me

    October 23, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  12. HeisGod

    Roger – You previously commented:

    That's total BS. I spent years in the Christian church trying to change my $exuality. You can be celibate for years, praying every minute of the day, and you still know that you're obviously attracted to the same $ex and have no attraction to the opposite $ex. Eventually, living like that gets so depressing you just want to check out and hope that the end of life is just the end...and that you're wrong about there being a he11.

    @ Roger – Hello, hope all is well with you. First., I would like to say that spending in a Christian Church doesn’t mean that one will be delivered and set free from any sin, not matter what it is. It is the POWER of the Holy Spirit over our lives that sets us free. Let me ask you this, did you get baptized in the Holy Spirit? Why do I ask? Because it makes a big difference in our spiritual lives when we invite Him in. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us and leads us into all truth and brings strength, help, & total deliverance to our lives as we struggle with sin. No one is perfect, not even a Christian. There are still sins that tries to take over us, but we must surrender to God with our hearts. I know that if you allow God and if you still desire to be changed from your $xualtiy, God is willing. For God, nothing is impossible, for man, most things are limited.

    I recommend you to seek a non-denomination Church where the Spirit of God dwells, His Word is being preached at it's best, so you can learn of God, know of God, and give back unto others, especially to those who are struggling with the same thing you are.

    October 23, 2010 at 9:07 am |
    • HeisGod

      Oops, meant to say:

      ". First, I would like to say that spending time in a Christian Church doesn’t mean that one will be delivered and set free from any sin, not matter what it is."

      October 23, 2010 at 9:13 am |
    • Sum Dude

      I recommend that you try flushing your empty head down the nearest toilet until you are successful. Let God help you turn the flush handle, as this may be difficult on your own, or bring a friend to help.
      If you understood your religion, you would not be so judgemental or opportunistic about "helping" people. But why do I bother with you? You are almost as bad as "jeff", another posterboy for ignorance in action like yourself.

      October 24, 2010 at 2:57 am |
  13. Larry Essmann

    Whith all these churches, and its members believing the same this thing, why are there so many different denomations and churches?
    What happened to, "Love thy neighbor as thyselff"?
    What happened to, "Let he who is guiltless, cast the first stone"?
    Seams like we have, "SELECTIVE RELIGION". We, PICK AND CHOOSE, what to believe and whats conveniate.

    October 23, 2010 at 4:57 am |
    • HeisGod

      @ Larry – Good morning, Sir.

      Christ said that the enemy, Satan, has not come but to kill, steal, and destroy. He is the father of ALL lies. There are so many denomination churches because Satan has brought so much confusion and division among God's Creation. Not all of the churches preach the same nor do they believe the same, why, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, the captives (spiritually) are set free and not every church has the Spirit of the Lord dwelling within it.

      I suggest, if I may, a non-denominational church where the Word of God (Not man's word or his rules) is preached at it's best. We need to know more of God, learn of God, and give back unto others.

      October 23, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  14. no one

    I pray for death, yet remain alive. Having no choice in life, where is my so-called free-will? If I didnt have a choice to begin with, then everything that follows is not free, or a choice, but a cruel mockery and a torturous hell on earth.
    I wait to die. My only consolation is that death sounds like a sure thing. Someday I will be free.

    October 23, 2010 at 4:06 am |
    • Peace2All

      @no one

      I hope that whatever your troubles in life, that you will find some measure of 'peace' and 'love' in your body, mind and soul.

      I am truly sorry that your experience of life is that troubling for you.

      Maybe this posting to your post may not make any difference to what you are going through, but remember.... Maybe this is someone reaching out to you, to let you know that you are being thought of... and hopefully realizing that you are not alone.

      I encourage you to seek help in 'any' family or friends, or professionals that can make a difference for you.

      I wish you Peace...

      October 23, 2010 at 4:17 am |
    • HeisGod

      @ Peace2All – Amen!!

      @ No one – Please do seek help with your family or someone. You are loved and no one can love you as much as Christ does. Seek Him and He will bring comfort to you. May the PEACE of God that surpasses all understanding guide your very life.

      October 23, 2010 at 9:24 am |
    • Sum Dude

      I find it curious that you jump to a number of conclusions about "no one". (what a great name! The possibilities! I laugh)
      You assume some things that I would not, but that you care is clear. You are a nice guy, but I knew that already.
      I cannot address "no one", as I see nothing to comment on. But that is just my take on it. Don't think that I don't care or anything...! I do, but I cannot think of anything to say. Sorry.

      You also make assumptions, but yours are worse than Peace2All's...and you have the temerity to push this person at your particular religion like a ghoul or vulture who sees a potential victim / believer to add to your sick religion.

      But I am not surprised in the least, as I have read and responded to many of your posts already. But you are trying to help, in your own twisted way. You did not have to bring your religion into it.
      But my words fall on deaf ears so often I will stop here.

      October 24, 2010 at 2:51 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude

      Hey Dude...!

      Yes, you are correct, i knowingly posted to @ no one with a certain 'headset' and assumptions as you stated, as I very much am a caring guy, and... I am aware that I could be wrong, but... I definitely did *not* want to take a chance.

      This one actually bothered me last night.... I didn't go to sleep for awhile, as I was concerned. So, I could be totally off as to @no one's 'intentions' 'meanings' etc.. but, I decided to 'err' if you will on the side of love, kindness, compassion.

      October 24, 2010 at 3:58 am |
    • Sum Dude

      Did I not say you were a nice guy? To "err" on the side of caution and care is no bad thing, but you assume that "no one" is lacking such things. But there isn't much to go on, anyway. The possibilities are legion. So many different situations could produce a post like that, some of them very uncommon yet possible, so don't worry. If your response was even necessary, you would never likely know unless you got a response telling you so.
      I see a person waiting to die. This sounds kind of peaceful in it's way. As to the mental health of the person, there isn't much to go on, and they have the right to say whatever they want in any case.
      I tend to be fatalistic, so I doubt my thoughts are all that comforting, yet I offer them in the hopes that you will quit freaking out and find peace. And you really are a nice guy.
      That big dent on your forehead looks painful, though. 😀

      October 24, 2010 at 4:58 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude

      Thanks Bro...

      October 24, 2010 at 5:02 am |
    • Sum Dude


      Sorry, bro. I think I am not as nice as you. It bothers me sometimes.
      All I can do is apologize if I have caused you pain with my harsh words.
      I am a callous old crank. I'm afraid I understand "no one's" post all too well.

      If I met the person, I would sit with them, saying nothing but being agreeable to giving them every consideration for their personal freedoms and rights to self-determination.

      Death is a strange topic. An ending of physiological consciousness at the very least, and the beginning of a possible extension of being past our ability to discern the truth of.

      A strange topic. Freedom I understand. Death I do not know what happens.
      Your personal NDE is not definitive, for you survived.

      There is more than one possibility in terms of continuation of what we loosely term a "soul", yet it is all conjecture and supposition. No one has yet returned in a manner conducive to confidence in the matter.

      October 24, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  15. Mark from Middle River

    Wow frank-straight

    That is some pretty ..... Good grief dude that was pretty messed up. It was almost tailbanish in language. If you consider loving some one of the same gender a sin worthy of being in the devils army then what are your opinions on other sins. I mean from looking at a woman who is not my wife to chowing down on the mother of all ice cream sundaes.

    My thoughts are the same as another poster here. I have too much of my own sin that me and God are trying to strighten out for me to go and jump all over another souls issues. I gotta deal with my soul, my sins and my relationship with he who is. Think of it this way, if god is working in their hearts and life , how do you think he or she will feel about your meddling in anothers issue?

    October 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  16. Raymond H. Burgoon-Clark

    My husband and I are impoverished, elderly, gay, and disabled. I was a church worker for 50 years. I can tell that the "Church" won't lift a finger to help US.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • Sweet Gender Switch Potato Fry From Transs[e]xual Transylvania

      My and my mother live in poverty and I'm pretty much disabled at the moment due to certain severe mental and emotional issues I am struggling with, so I understand how you feel to a certain extant. It is very hard to find people that care. And charities are overloaded and overworked so they can't help everyone. It is a very difficult situation. May God be with you.

      October 22, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      I would have said that it's very difficult to find help. Many people care, like you and me, but what can we do? You have few resources and I also have few resources, so the problem seems to be in our lack of abilities and resources to help these people.
      And when you talk about money, it becomes an excuse for using it as a political football, as we so often see in politics and religion.
      If only religion wasn't a delusional belief system....things would be very different in this world.

      October 24, 2010 at 2:38 am |
  17. Loki7329

    I find the defensiveness of some of those seeking to refute the results of the survey strangely comforting. I guess it makes me feel better to know you are still capable of feeling shame and guilt.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  18. Go Here For the Answer!

    For the answer about whether the Church contributes to gay suicides, etc. go no further than this report:

    October 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  19. Kathy

    Friends, I do not hear of African-Americans or Hispanics committing suicide because a lot of negative things are said about them by any particular group. Why pick church as a huge supposed cause of these suicides, when statistics also report that a large percentage of people do not consider themselves religious or go to church. Why not try and find out what might be the real cause in the thought of any person who takes their life – I doubt that it really has anything to do with church.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  20. FLGirl

    Please tell me that the majority of people here are smarter than to believe that weekly church services are just a big gathering of gay-bashers.

    The reality is, most churches don't address gay behavior at all, ever.

    October 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • ICEMAN

      that is true flgirl, i still hate the gators

      October 23, 2010 at 9:24 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.