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. jamesbrummel

    Every member of the clergy I have met has been kind, funny, smart. It's the muckity mucks up top that cause the problems, letting the foot soldiers take the heat.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  2. IdahoTom

    I could care less about the issue, but let me say as a scientist that this survey "showing" that 2/3 Americans thinking that churches contribute to suicide of gay people is a total garbage statistics done probably by an untrained amateur statistician. They only interviewed 1017 Americans? So as people can agree, how an individual will perceive an issue and cast opinions will differ from state to state, "city to city" within the state. lets divide that by 50 states, about 20 people were interviewed per state. Lets divide that number by an average number of major cities in each states in the U.S. (I don't actually know that number) but you'll see that the numbers will come out to be "few people" per major cities per state. This does not clearly represent 2/3 of Americans. Please for the sake of "Science" stop publishing these garbage statistics. Another reason why we scientist don't get appreciated now a days because of these low quality pseudo scientific statistical analysis being performed and treated by the media as in if there's any validity. These 1017 people were probably even all interviewed in a single city. Garbage.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  3. actingprez82

    Love, acceptance, tolerance, understanding, etc. can't be legislated, it must be inculcated.

    Stop blaming others for your own intolerance, prejudice, hatred, and lack of understanding of the differences in others....I would never participate in a parish or mass, or congregation that would be intolerant or hateful towards any individual or group.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:44 am |
  4. GD

    Preachers, like lawyers, should all be shipped to the moon.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:35 am |
    • NightCelt

      Don't you know they've already arrived? That's why it's called 'lunacy.'

      October 22, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  5. Gerry Daley

    With the rise of the ChristoNazis and the Tea Party, it is only going to get worse. What we now have is a huge amount of people who don't what what is right and good, they only want what is right and good for themselves. Exhibit A: The idiot who wants to be a US senator drom Del., who is puzzled by the First Ammendment.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:31 am |

    The devil is the REAL reason for gay suicides, NOT THE CHURCH. I admit that some so called Christians EXTREMELY hate against gays, but they should only hate their sin and NOT the person. The gay person that commits suicide most likely does NOT have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore is easily under the evil influences of the enemy to commit such a selfish act.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:30 am |
    • GD

      ...excuse me while I clean the coffee off my monitor...

      Oh, by the way, the devil made me do it.

      October 22, 2010 at 6:38 am |
    • fuyuko

      The devil isn't real. He is a cosmic boogeyman the early people created to keep their flock in line.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  7. SCDad

    churches have aways been a factor in suicide, murder, bigotry, persecution, child molestation, etc. religion is a tool created by men to control, or destroy, other men.

    October 22, 2010 at 5:53 am |
  8. danielle

    I know of a woman who was with her partner for many yrs and when her partner passed away she wasn't even allowed into the icu to say goodbye because she wasn't "family" this is just wrong on so many levels. How would you feel if that was you

    October 22, 2010 at 5:04 am |
    • Gender Switch Potato Fry

      That's absolutely awful. 🙁

      October 22, 2010 at 5:17 am |
  9. tomcat

    i was not allowed back to catholic school after one year. i asked the nuns why too many times. mom was not happy but i remembered my pops trying not to smile

    October 22, 2010 at 4:59 am |
  10. Alan

    Let me begin by saying I attend a christian church every week and that Jesus Christ is my lord and savior. Now having said that let me tell you what I hate more than anything. Religion or better yet religious people. I would support the findings of this survey. It is not rocket science. The church has done a wonderful job alienating and excluding more than just the gay members of society. Here is the issue. Christians like to talk about heaven a lot like it is an exclusive club. Here is the problem. The only person I can confirm is in heaven is me when I die. I do not know what ANYONE elses heart is comitted to. Death is God's business and God's business alone.
    SO here is the solution. Stop judging your fellow man and start using the greatest gift you have been given as a born again christian. GRACE. By GOD's grace we have been saved. Now extend that grace to your fellow man. Use your grace to help make this world a better place. If you stop setting up rules for admission you might just find that the family of Christ will grow and not shrink. Let God figure it out. He is the only one that know the truth.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:51 am |
    • Francis Gabriel Sebastian


      October 22, 2010 at 4:53 am |
    • GD

      Alan, hate to burst your bubble, dude, but no one is confirmed in heaven till the Big Guy says it's a go.

      Try a little humility now and then...it can go a long way to getting you where you want to be,

      October 22, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Frogist

      @Alan: Don't you realise you ARE "religious people"?

      October 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  11. Frank

    Why is CNN modorating my coments? what have I said that is wrong. Can i not express my opinions? you talk of free speech but at the same time you censor.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:34 am |
    • LezInColorado

      Frank, I have enjoyed reading all of your posts. I hope the rest are un-moderated ,so to speak.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:41 am |
    • Francis Gabriel Sebastian

      There are two Franks here. I'm the LGBT-accepting Catholic Frank. The other 'Frank' is a h0m0phobe. He's my evil doppelganger.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:47 am |
    • Sum Dude

      You just need to check the list and hope the solution is already listed. Go ch-ch-check it out! Wha-wha-what's it all about?


      October 22, 2010 at 4:55 am |
    • Francis Gabriel Sebastian

      Lol, Beastie Boys.
      Oh, I saw the list. The funny thing is that on the Chart blog, you can say most of the words on there. Lol. This site is f[_]cking horrible.

      October 22, 2010 at 5:03 am |
  12. danielle

    Why would any of you compare someone who is gay to a rapist or a child molester or any other horrible thing like that? It is not a crime to fall in love with some one ( as long as it is age appropriate ) whether they are a man or a woman. In my opinion you can not help who your heart chooses to love.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:30 am |
  13. tomcat

    till the time we all look think and have the same thoughts there will be rifts between mankind. i hope it never comes to this. the cultural diversities make this world unique. how many of you despise a certain ethnic group so much then have meals that originated with said culture? i feel that our families are to blame if you grow up with hate the apple does not fall far from the tree. if all you hear are negative comments ditto. if we continue to allow ourselves to furthur take no interest in our childrens lives and talk and listen to them this downward spiral will start spinning faster. remember they are your kids i never heard an embryo say thanks for conceiving me

    October 22, 2010 at 4:28 am |
  14. josh

    thats just a lame excuse to blame churches now for the gays commiting suicide.churches have the right to peach whatever they want.freedom of speech.the left is doing everything they can to silence the people on their gay agenda.but after november its over.the gay agenda can go back to the closet where it came from.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:27 am |
    • LezInColorado

      Exactly what is the "gay agenda"? Come november, should we be more afraid that we already are? Do you mean that not only will there be hatred and bigotry, something worse is going to happen? Is this a threat?

      October 22, 2010 at 4:37 am |
    • Ts. Mhing

      Having the right to preach whatever you want and being ACCURATE in what you preach are entirely different subjects junior. Preaching hate is unacceptable by any civilized beings standard. If you use the bible to do it, there are serious emotional problems with the person(s) doing it. Cherry picking the bible for hate is totally contrary to the purpose of its creation. Only moronic rednecks cherry pick something like the bible to hate. Because they want to hate to begin with.

      October 22, 2010 at 7:05 am |
  15. C.A.C.

    I grew up biracial in the South in a very redneck town full of racists (to include KKK members)...was raised Catholic...was physically & emotionally abused...ran away from home...ended up joining the Marines...all the while knowing I was "different" (gay). Sadly, I gave up on God, for somehow He had forsaken me. I truly despised Him for making me "this way" and for making me suffer. But, I ended up finding my way back to him...with a lot of thought, a lot of Bible reading/studying, and a whole lot of prayer. I came to realize that He truly must have made me in His image, for I honestly know "this" is who/what I am. And I know that when my time comes to meet my Maker, He will embrace me and let me be with Him for eternity.
    I don't wanna come off as some weirdo, religious home freak...I am actually a pretty "sane, level-headed" guy with no "agenda" or propaganda to sell about my beliefs, but I am truly saddened by the fact that so many of the gays have strayed away from God just because of what they have heard from the pulpits. I say: read the Bible; study the Gospels; interpret for yourself what God "said" or what He "meant" and where your place is in His heart.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:20 am |
    • Frank

      Good for you, C.A.C. God bless you. We are indeed wonderfully and fearfully made in His image.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:23 am |
    • Den

      C.A.C....he said "Abomination".....and grouped it with be-asti-ality in the account of Sodom and Gamora.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:28 am |
    • LezInColorado

      CAC, I was kicked out of my parish for being gay. I have no desire to return, I've had enough of the hate for a life-time. But thank you for your kind post.
      DEN, again you proved the article...you are a sick person.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:34 am |
    • GD

      Den – the only abomination on here is you. And quit touching yourself like that.

      October 22, 2010 at 6:44 am |
    • Frogist

      LOL! @GD: You totally make reading this blog worthwhile!

      October 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  16. Trusten Christ

    Kind of a big decision to make on one skewed experience, don't you think? It is unfortunate that people you trusted made you feel unwanted. I can see a church separating a person that openly refused to deal with sin in their life, but that is always painful for both sides. No one wants the separation. It is that separation that should drive the person to want to put away the sin and be rejoined to the church. But, it sounds to me that they either did not communicate that they loved you and wanted you to return, or they had sin in their own hearts.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:19 am |
    • Ts. Mhing

      You're nothing short of a complete and total JOKE! Stop pretending to be so pious. I'm sure you are no different than any other hypocrite church going "look at me in church" type I've ever known.

      October 22, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  17. bill

    Deliverance is available in H.B. book of acts see : chapter 2 verses 38 through 39

    October 22, 2010 at 4:04 am |
  18. LezInColorado

    So, we see the rabid xtians spewing forth their gospel, again thinking that their way is the ONLY way. I was a xtian many years ago. I was told to leave the church after I came out because they didn't want "my kind" there. To be honest, it was a relief, and I have never been happier. I heard the crap of the josephines et al, ALL the time when I attended. The posts above only prove the articles point. I no longer believe in xtianity, or any of it's tenents. I fervently desire that they stop trying to force their beliefs onto me and try to live the kind of life they constantly preach about. Doubtful it will happen though, as they are some of the most hate filled fearful people I have ever encountered.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:03 am |
  19. bill

    There is deliverance in Acts 2:38-39

    October 22, 2010 at 4:01 am |
    • Ts. Mhing

      Then deliver yourself to a FedEx office dude!

      October 22, 2010 at 6:52 am |
  20. SOTBchurch

    Those evil christians really need to think about the consequences of their anti-gay speeches. They have blood of gay kids on their bloody hands. I don't think their Jesus wants gay kids in hell, only the SOTB christians do.

    October 22, 2010 at 3:47 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.