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. Mark from Middle River

    "Christians killed me, excluded me, ended my life"

    kha- Dude if you are feeling alone and excluded then you really really need to get out. The lgbt is big enough and diverse enough to have their own internal cliches. There are even lgbt churches where you can still worship as a Christian more openly.

    Saying that Christians ended your life just says to many that you might need to try a bit harder.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  2. PETE

    Who says religion is useless, anything that will make gays kill themselves is a positive force in my book.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
    • GD

      @Pete Your book? What? You can read? Whoa! Hey! Look everybody! A monkey that can read!

      October 22, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  3. NamVet

    Don't worry about sample size. Just attend a Christian right service and listen to the sermon.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  4. Mark

    Preachers and organized religions = A den of power hungry thieves and psychopaths.

    The death, war, suffering and mayhem caused in the name of religion is proof that no God would inflict any religion on His creation.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  5. stumonky

    EVERYONE! Jesus didn't bring up Gays during his last visit because he assumed Sodom and Gamora answered that question pretty good. I'm sure he will bring it up on the next "Remind the dumb humans tour"

    October 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  6. mb2010a

    Churches are the root of all evil in this world...

    October 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  7. gen81465

    I don't mind the size of the poll (~1000 people), but someone at CNN needs to go back to math class: 4/10 does NOT equal 2/3. The first paragraph says, "Two out of three Americans ... ." but the second paragraph tries to justify the number by saying, "More than four out of 10 Americans ..." It sounds like CNN has been reading the book, "How To Lie With Statistics". They may have also been listening to noted liberal media man Josh Sugarman, who once said, "If you pound a lie into people's heads long enough, they will eventually come to accept it as the truth."

    October 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • Oreally

      Did you actually read the article? Two different points were being made, hence, two different statistics.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  8. Mystery

    Read my words

    October 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  9. Jim

    People kill themselves because there weak!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • GD

      @Jim You spelled "they're" wrong. You are WEAK! Now, take your own punishment!

      October 22, 2010 at 6:55 am |
  10. mike

    how typical of cnn to run as a headline a poll which is specifically manufactured to spew negative propaganda about christians. cnn's hatred of christianity continues!

    October 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  11. Marla

    We stopped going to church years ago because of the hateful way that gays were being talked about in the church.
    We had attended a lovely church in a northern state which included everyone. The choir director and the lady in charge of Sunday school education were a lesbian couple. Any newcomer at the church who had a problem with that was politely directed to another church.
    We then moved to a southern state and tried three different churches of that denomination. I was appalled that my children were being told to hate gays in Sunday school. They were confused, since they had grown up with lesbian "aunties" all of their lives. As a family, we made the decision to stop attending any church. I was very proud of my children when they stood up for their gay friends at school.
    Our "northern" church was teaching true Christianity. Unfortunately, many churches in this country today teach something that I do not recognize as being Christian.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Frank

      Marta, I hope you find a welcoming, loving accepting church! God bless!

      October 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • Frank


      October 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  12. Brian

    I'm a gay Mormon and I attempted suicide 2 years ago mainly because of the church's involvement in Prop8 and the stance they chose. Thankfully I survived, I got support from my family and friends, and now I am stronger and speak out against the church and it's choice to speak about political events.

    I still go to church, I am a part of the council in charge of making decisions for the young adults and I plan out activities we do. A few people know I'm gay and it's not a big deal. I just don't bring up what I do outside of church to people.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Brian: I'm glad you're ok. I wish you didn't have to hide that part of yourself from your church. Stay healthy.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  13. stumonky

    Sounds like we need more churches to rid ourselves of more unstable people.
    Who would have thought?

    October 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  14. MikeTX

    Sadly enough, there is a point to this story. The church is supposed to be a place where people can find comfort, security, and help if they need it.
    Unfort., this is not always the case with gay or lesbians.

    I'm a faithful Catholic, attend Mass regularly, participate in some church ministries to help those less fortunate.
    I have never heard anti-gay statements preached from the ambo (pulpit), ever.
    Of course, I have heard some negative comments outside of Mass. Not many, but some.
    I simply turn to the person who said it and say, "We are all God's children. Jesus would not have liked what you said."
    Then I quote paragraph 2358 of the Catholic Catechism: "They must be accepted with respect, dignity, and sensitivity."
    That usually shuts them up.

    I love God and the Church, I am willing to fight to make sure the true word of love and acceptance for ALL God's children. If some bigots around me don't like it, then we all know what will happen to them when the die. I hope the like it "down there" when they make it.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Frank

      Amen, Mike! I'm with you! God bless you.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      This would be a good video to pass on to people who are clearly mistaken about the Church's stand on gays.......http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc

      October 21, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  15. joe

    saying that christians hate gays is stupid. we dont hate gays or lesbians whe hate thier actions which are a abomination to him if yu have a child who robs a store or kills someone or anything bad like that you do not hate your child you hate thier actions

    October 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • HeisGod

      Amen, unfortunately, they don't see that and Satan has blinded their eyes to see us as hateful Christians as well as God Almighty.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • Frogist

      joe: Your equating being gay with killing someone speaks for itself.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  16. Voiceofreason

    "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". Seriously? Who cares what people think the reason may have been. That's pure speculation and poor research. The only people who could offer any insight behind the act of committing suicide are those who have done it. And, unfortunately, we can't really ask them.

    Church's have every right and even a moral obligation to their congregations to teach their doctrine. A church should not be expected to change age-old doctrine to fit changing social norms. The majority of churches do not preach hatred, discrimination, or bullying. They do teach that it is a sin.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • SOTBchurch

      Even my dog knows gay-hate is come from the freaking church and those christians from hell.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Voice of Reason: Christian's should care that people believe it is the fault of the church. Christians should ask themselves why people feel this way. And Christians should seek truth by looking at the enmity and division created by preaching gays are sinners bound for hell. There is obviously something rotten in Denmark, holding your nose and pretending it's not there, doesn't stop it from making a stink.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  17. HeisGod

    Look to God only for the direction of your life, not to men who is self destructive and corrupted in church and out of Church. God will guide you and lead you in the path of His righteousness, NOT man's righteousness because he doesn't have one.

    There are many leaders that are false preachers, Evangelists, Pastors and so on. But we also have corrupted leaders in the government and justice of the peace.



    October 21, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Then tell him to get in touch. I've got a lot of hard questions for him that simplistic people like yourself are unable to answer.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • HeisGod

      @ Sum Dude – He has been right in your face all your life, you have been missing Him. Pray to Him and ask Him what ever you want.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • Sum Dude

      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.

      October 22, 2010 at 3:02 am |
  18. 22Tango

    Definitely - the Catholic Church and all the others have made gay men and women suffer beyond words by causing them pain and shame. I truly believe that if Jesus walked the earth today he would have an open heart toward gay men and women. Judge and be judged, remember that.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • MikeTX

      You got that right!!

      October 21, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
    • Frank

      Jesus loves everyone and He hung out with all the rejects, outcasts and throw-aways of society. He repeatedly told people to stop judging others. For if you judge, you are a hypocrite!
      If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would hanging out with the homeless, the drug addicts, the beaten, the poor, the starving and the disowned, the ill – all of the outcasts of society, no matter their s#xual orientation or gender ident!ty.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • John

      2358 of the Catholic Catechism: "They must be accepted with respect, dignity, and sensitivity."
      That usually shuts them up. Ya go home ya troll.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  19. Richard

    why do non believers always ask believer why God does this or why God allows this? When you have a problem with a Company do you as the janitor for answers.

    I am not God nor is the one you ask. If you seek answers, seek them from Him unless you aim to belittle the "faith" or "beliefs" of another. Then of course you are guilty of what this article is about. How do you know that this faith is all that is holding this individual together. I have no perfect answers for you but I know One who does if you seek them. BUT just like the lottery one has to play to win.

    My Lord says judge and ye be judged. It also says ALL are sinners and ALL fall short of the glory of God.

    To any individual who think they should kill themselves because of what the Bible says let me remind you that it tells you NOT to kill yourself....ever. As far as your relationship with Him...seek answers....you will find them and I do not know what they are.............Good Luck Friend!

    October 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • HeisGod

      THANK YOU!!!! Amen, I am in agreement with you in Christ Jesus.

      God bless you!!

      October 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Since the Bible says nothing about suicide, you are a liar.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • Charles

      @Sum Dude. Thou shalt not murder. That's in the Bible. Suicide is self-murder.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • Shack

      Actually, I think the Catholic church now says that suicide is not a sin anymore since if you do commit suicide then you are not mentally stable at the time and are not able to listen to God's words.

      Or something like that...

      But I do see where you going at.

      October 22, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • Sum Dude

      "Thou shalt not kill" or even "Thou shalt not murder" is not the same as "Thou shalt not self-murder or suicide, etc."

      And since Moses wrote those words himself, as anyone with a bit of sense could plainly see, it doesn't matter much anyway.
      Got any more tiny arrows in that quivering mass of jelly you call a brain?

      Maybe you've not read that many Christians suicided in the days after Jesus was crucified. This continued for a great many years...and then one day, the Catholic Church made a proclamation that suicide was wrong.

      Ha! Jesus committed suicide by "sacrificing" himself for whatever reason, if he even existed.
      You just don't get it, do you?

      What I do with my body is none of your damn business, regardless of your stupid religious precepts and contradictory doctrine, you indoctrinated victim of your own religion.

      It's none of your business what I do with my own body. Ever.
      If I do not harm others, you have no business interfering with my privacy, personal actions, or personal decisions, much less my personal right to think as I like. Freedom of thought cannot be opposed without hypocrisy.

      Seek out evil within your heart and, by opposing it, prove that you have good intentions to yourself. Then turn to the question of what others do and the freedoms and rights we have in this country.
      You could always move elsewhere, you know....

      October 22, 2010 at 2:57 am |
    • Charles

      @Sum Dude. I sincerely take no offense at your comments or personal attacks. You seem to have preconceived notions about the Bible, Christians, maybe even all faiths, perhaps due to bad prior experiences? May some day you find peace in the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, who is the only one who can take away the pain, anger and hurt in your heart which is so evident in your words.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Sum Dude

      That you are deaf to my words is clear. Yet you may understand one day what I mean, even if you have forgotten what I said.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
    • Megumi

      VERY NEAT! even got to see my old apartment! I spent 5 years in the neohoborgihd! Living in an ARTIST colony setting. There were many folks from the school that lived in the buildings surrounding VGU! We all spent many great days and nights together in the COLONY! It was the sixties SOOO I need not say more! GREAT MUSIC GREAT FRIENDS and GREAT TIMES! If I could think of any one time that stood out! It would have to be the snow storms BACK BAY never looked more beautiful than under a foot or more of snow!THANX for the memories!

      September 9, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  20. Mystery

    Suicide without any doubt is used to manipulate the culture and beliefs of other people. Is our society truley being asked to Kow Tow to any person that says they will kill themselves? To alter our beliefs to those that threaten to kill? Love reationships are the perfect example. People forced into an intimate relationship on the threats of suicide. Suicide is a sin. God says do not kill and that is first and foremost oneself. The New Golden Rule "Do not hurt yourself".

    October 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
    • Kate


      Ummm, you mean ...


      Not the crack suicide squad as a political tool again, please!

      Just Montyin'

      October 21, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
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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.