When Christians become a 'hated minority'
Evangelical Christians say they are the new victims of intolerance - they're persecuted for condemning homosexuality.
May 5th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

When Christians become a 'hated minority'

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - When Peter Sprigg speaks publicly about his opposition to homosexuality, something odd often happens.

During his speeches, people raise their hands to challenge his assertions that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but no Christians speak out to defend him.

“But after it is over, they will come over to talk to me and whisper in my ear, ‘I agree with everything you said,’" says Sprigg, a spokesman for The Family Research Council, a powerful, conservative Christian lobbying group.

We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot.

As proof, Sprigg points to the backlash that ESPN commentator Chris Broussard sparked recently. Broussard was called a bigot and a purveyor of hate speech when he said an NBA player who had come out as gay was living in “open rebellion to God.” Broussard said the player, Jason Collins, was “living in unrepentant sin” because the Bible condemns homosexuality.

“In the current culture, it takes more courage for someone like Chris Broussard to speak out than for someone like Jason Collins to come out,” says Sprigg, a former pastor. “The media will hail someone who comes out of the closet as gay, but someone who simply expresses their personal religious views about homosexual conduct is attacked.”

When is disagreement hate?

Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Illinois, says Christians should be able to publicly say that God designed sex to take place within a marriage between a man and a woman.

“That isn’t so outrageous,” Litfin says. “Nobody is expressing hate toward homosexuals by saying that. Since when is disagreement the same as hate?”

But quoting the Bible doesn't inoculate anyone from becoming a bigot or hater, some scholars say. There's a point at which a Christian's opposition to homosexuality can become bigotry, and even hate speech, they say.

Crossing such a line has happened many times in history.

A literal reading of the Bible was used to justify all sorts of hatred: slavery, the subjugation of women and anti-Semitism, scholars and pastors say.

“Truly damaging speech cannot be excused just because it expresses genuine religious belief,” says Mark D. Jordan, author of “Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality.”

“Some religious beliefs, sincerely held, are detestable. They cannot be spoken without disrupting social peace,” says Jordan, a professor at the John Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

The point where religious speech becomes hate speech is difficult to define, though, scholars and activists say.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama is a nonprofit civil rights group that combats and monitors hate groups. Three years ago, it designated the Family Research Council, the group that Sprigg represents, as a hate group - a characterization the group stridently rejects.

Mark Potok,  a center spokesman, says there’s no shared definition of what constitutes hate speech.

“There is no legal meaning. It’s just a phrase,” Potok says. “Hate speech is in the ear of the beholder.”

'One of the most hated minorities?'

Intolerance may be difficult to define, but some evangelicals say they have become victims of intolerance because of their reverence for the Bible.

The conservative media culture is filled with stories about evangelicals being labeled as “extremists” for their belief that homosexuality is a sin.

Their sense of persecution goes beyond their stance on homosexuality. There are stories circulating of evangelical students being suspended for opposing homosexuality, a teacher fired for giving a Bible to a curious student, and the rise of anti-Christian bigotry.

A blogger at The American Dream asked in one essay:

“Are evangelical Christians rapidly becoming one of the most hated minorities in America?”

The reluctance of evangelicals to speak out against homosexuality is often cited as proof they are being forced into the closet.

Joe Carter, editor for The Gospel Coalition, an online evangelical magazine, wrote a blog post entitled “Debatable: Is the Christian Church a ‘Hate Group’?" He warned that young people will abandon “orthodox” Christian churches that teach that homosexuality is a sin for fear of being called haters.

“Faux civility, embarrassment, prudishness and a fear of expressing an unpopular opinion has caused many Christians to refrain from explaining how homosexual conduct destroys lives,” Carter wrote.

Some Christians fear that opposing homosexuality could cause them to lose their jobs and “haunt them forever,” Carter says.

“It’s easier to just go along,” says Carter, who is also author of “How to Argue Like Jesus.” “You don’t want to be lumped in with the bigots. That’s a powerful word."

Edward Johnson, a communication professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, says we are now living in a "postmodern" era where everything is relative and there is no universally accepted truth. It's an environment in which anyone who says "this is right" and "that is wrong" is labeled intolerant, he says.

There was a time when a person could publicly say homosexuality was wrong and people could consider the statement without anger, he says. Today, people have reverted to an intellectual tribalism where they are only willing to consider the perspective of their own tribe.

“They are incapable of comprehending that someone may have a view different than theirs,” Johnson says. “For them anyone who dares to question the dogma of the tribe can only be doing so out of hatred.”

Sprigg, from the Family Research Council, says his condemnation of homosexual conduct does not spring from intolerance but a desire to protect gays from harmful conduct, he says.

Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the council, wrote in a council pamphlet that homosexual men are more likely to engage in child sexual abuse than are straight men. He also wrote that gay men are also afflicted with a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases and mental illness as well.

Sprigg says he does not believe homosexuality is a choice and that “personal testimonies" and "clinical experience” show that some people “can and do change from gay to straight.”

“Maybe we need to do a better job of showing that we are motivated by Christian love,” Sprigg says. “Love is wanting the best for someone, and acting to bring that about.”

'That's a lie'

Potok, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, has little use for the love Sprigg talks about.

He calls it hatred, and his voice rose in anger when he talked about the claims by Sprigg and other Christian groups that gay men are more predisposed to molest children and that homosexual behavior is inherently harmful.

He says the Southern Poverty Law Center didn’t designate the Family Research Group a hate group because they view homosexuality as a sin or oppose same-sex marriage, Potok says. There are plenty of Christian groups who hold those beliefs but are not hate groups, he says.

A group becomes a hate group when it attacks and maligns an entire class of people for their “immutable characteristics,” Potok says. The Family Research Council spreads known falsehoods about gays and lesbians, he says, such as the contention that gay men are predisposed to abuse children.

“That’s a lie,” Potok says. “These guys are engaging in straight-up defamation of a very large group of people. There are not many things much worse than you can say in America about somebody than they are a child molester.”

Potok scoffed at Spriggs’ claim that the council and other evangelical anti-gay groups are victims of intolerance.

“That’s whining on the part of people who spend their days and nights attacking gay people and then some people criticize them and they don’t like it,” he says. “That’s pathetic. It reminds me of slave owners complaining that people are saying ugly things about them.”

What the Bible says

What about the popular evangelical claim, “We don’t hate the sinner, just the sin” – is that seen as intolerance or hate speech when it comes to homosexuality?

There are those who say you can’t hate the sin and love the sinner because being gay or lesbian is defined by one’s sexual behavior; it’s who someone is.

“Most people who identify as gay and lesbian would say that this is not an action I’m choosing to do; this is who I am,” says Timothy Beal, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book.”

Beal, a religion professor at Case Western University in Ohio, says it should be difficult for any Christian to unequivocally declare that the Bible opposes homosexuality because the Bible doesn’t take a single position on the topic. It's an assertion that many scholars and mainline Protestant pastors would agree with.

Some people cite Old Testament scriptures as condemning homosexuality, such as  Leviticus 18:22 - “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” But other Christians counter by saying they are not bound by the Old Testament.

There are those who also cite New Testament scriptures like Romans 1:26-27 - “… Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men. …”

Beal, however, says Jesus said little about sex. And the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans, was probably referring to male prostitution and men having sexual relations with boys, a practice in the Greco-Roman world.

“Paul does not understand genetics and sexual orientation the way we understand it now as something much more than a choice,” says Beal.

Some evangelicals say Christians can’t change their view of biblical truth just because times change. But some scholars reply:

Sure you can. Christians do it all the time.

Denying a woman’s ability to preach in church was justified by scriptures like 1 Timothy 2:11-12 - “… I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” But many churches have abandoned that teaching - and some scholars say a woman preached the first Christian sermon, when Mary Magdalene proclaimed that Jesus had risen.

Slaveholders in 19th century America justified slavery through a literal reading of the Bible, quoting Titus 2:9-10 – “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything. …” And anti-Semitism was justified by the claims that Jews killed Jesus, such as Matthew 27: 25-26 - “Let his blood be on us and on our children.”

Litfin, from Moody Bible Institute, acknowledged that the Bible once sanctioned slavery, but he said that practice was a “cultural expression” that changed over time. Evangelicals who oppose same-sex marriage by citing the Bible are on more solid ground, he says.

“Marriage is a universal and timeless institution that God set up for maximum human flourishing. He set it up in the first book of the Bible with the story of Adam and Eve. It is consistent throughout the whole Bible. … Marriage is in a different category than those cultural things.”

Public jousts over the Bible's stance on homosexuality rarely change people’s minds. What changes is when people get to know gay and lesbian people as friends and hear their story, says Beal, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Bible.”

“If you open up to that other person genuinely, you basically come to a point where you have to sacrifice them to your ideology or crack open your ideology to make a hospitable place for them,” Beal says.

One Christian pastor who is gay says the uproar over the ESPN commentator’s comments can actually be good,  because debates help settle moral disputes.

“What appears to us as antiquated and prejudicial now was once a disputed issue that required debate,” says the Rev. Richard McCarty, a minister in the United Church of Christ and a religious studies professor at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania.

Until the debate over homosexuality is settled - if it ever is - there may be plenty of evangelical Christians who feel as if they are now being forced to stay in the closet.

Carter, the evangelical blogger, says he foresees a day when any church that preaches against homosexuality will be marginalized. Just as many churches now accept divorce, they will accept sexual practices once considered sinful.

“It’s getting to the point,” he says, “where churches are not going to say that any sexual activity is wrong.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Culture wars • Protest • Sex • Sexuality • Sports

soundoff (10,982 Responses)
  1. ShawnDH

    Christians need to learn to step outside themselves and think about how difficult and annoying it is to talk to people about important issues when the only thing Christians base their "ideas" on is ancient Middle Eastern fairy tales and that they were told to believe something. That's not good enough. It's hard to respect that point of view.

    Logic, reason, the real world, and that real people are being affected by their bigoted beliefs don't seem to matter to them at all. They can't seem to think outside what they are told to believe and it's incredibly frustrating...so mockery of them is just the natural thing to do.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Sharon

      It's fear. Christians are afraid of taking full responsibility for their beliefs and require an outside made up being to attribute their actions and beliefs to.

      I don't think mocking them is of any help. Let them continue in their beliefs as long as they don't try to impose them on anyone else. The fact of the matter is that religion is dying out. It isn't going to be gone anytime soon but, it is going. Think about how long it took for the religious majority to believe the world was round. It is going to take a while for them to come around but, it is inevitable. Pity them in the meantime.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • howieinbrissie

      Amen to that!

      May 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Errday

      Still trying to reason with schizophrenics? Ohhkayyyy.
      I'm sure they'll line up for blocks just to tell you how right you are and to apologize for being wrong. yeah.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • KJC

      I found this interview with a "gay Christian" to be enlightening for both Christians and non-Christians alike. I think CNN may have even posted a link to it a while back. The interviewee says that he has friends who disagree with him, but he does not consider them all to be bigoted. Worth a read: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-a-gay-christian-response

      May 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • M

      The only reason we believe is because of the Bible. The Bible even told people that if you lived then that you could go visit the eyewitnesses to the miracles that Jesus preformed. The gospels were written by a doctor, a tax collector, and two disciples of Jesus. I don't think they were hallucenating when they decided to write about him.

      May 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • M

      Also, I can totally see how I come off to people who don't believe the same things I do. I would probably write a comment challenging Christianity if I wasn't one. I admit that creation and things of that sort are hard to believe. It says in the Bible that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years a day, so who knows how long those things happened. I don't base my belief in those things but solely in the resurrection of Jesus, which the Bible says that you could've talked to the wittnesses if you had lived during that time. I know this is poorly written and not too structured but thank you for reading this.

      May 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • G to the T

      "The gospels were written by a doctor, a tax collector, and two disciples of Jesus. I don't think they were hallucenating when they decided to write about him."

      Sorry M – this is a HUGE misconception about the bible. We have NO idea who wrote the majority of the books in the Bible. Even in the letters of Paul, it is almost certain that some of them were not written by Paul...

      May 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Visitor


    May 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  3. kvankam

    I don'T care if people envy Christians. We don't need their acceptance, but God's love and other Christians love is enough.

    Also, it is good for us:

    May 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Answer

      You don't need acceptance.. ? Really.

      The conversions are about people accepting your junk. Guess you're saying you want to be irrelevant. Good news then.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • kvankam

      Conversion is voluntary. We don't expect non-believers to accept what they don't believe if they don't want.

      Of course, we would like them to know Jesus, but some people will never accept him, so we don't expect anything from them.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      We are all made being as convertibles. Just don't let me catch you in my convertible without my knowing!

      May 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • kvankam

      @Answer The Gospel is not irrelevant. People are.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Who exactly envies christians? I don't envy people who choose ignorance over reason. They can choose as they will, but what I feel for them is pity, maybe disappointment, but never once envy.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Doobs

      No one envies you. I laugh at your ability to believe in magic, to accept that you are born wrong and need a sky daddy and his zombie son who is really him to "save" you. I feel sorry that you waste your life wishing for another, better life where you spend eternity on your knees before your slave master.

      May 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • G to the T

      "The Gospel is not irrelevant. People are." – That has to be one of the saddest things I've ever read...

      May 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  4. faith

    I always think it's funny when Christians claim I hate God because I'm not Christian. No, I don't hate God, if there is one. No, I don't hate Jesus. I just don't ascribe to your religion. I think it is silly and, while needed for a time, is not needed in our day and age."

    i hear ya. it is funny when nazi god hating atheists claim i'm a big oted, white, cons ervative, shallow, phon y, wealthy, stu pid, hat eful, ly ing, worth less, hypoc ritical repu blican ra cist h om op hone. i guess that helps em run from really thinking about god

    May 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Answer

      The tool wants a cuddle. How endearing.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Observer

      Nothing's funnier than an ignorant person screaming "nazi" all the time when their regime ended 60 years ago.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      "nazi god hating atheists"

      So it is atheists who hate the nazi god, which was the christian god. Odd you should target that way.

      I do not hate any gods...you can't hate what does not exist.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • faith

      collapsing skulls

      May 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • Tamsyn

      How very odd. I don't know one "nazi god-hating atheist".
      Atheists don't believe in any god, let alone waste energy hating one that they don't think exists.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • faith

      it is really remarkable how far we've advanced. in medical terms it is called sucking out the brain

      May 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Observer


      So tell us: should all abortions be prevented or do you support abortion?

      May 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The quality of trolls on this blog is really quite bad. Figgles is perhaps the worst of the lot - boring, pointless and not even readable.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Doobs

      "in medical terms it is called sucking out the brain

      LMAO!! "In medical terms". How stupid. That must be what happened to you.

      Faith loves to turn any discussion into a forum for it to screech about abortion.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  5. ManWithThe1000PoundBrain

    “The point is, if conservatives are going to refuse to accept gay marriage, we need to protest as if we were a marginalized and condemned minority. Because if we keep pretending we can deny gay people the right to marry, we will be. And that's the word.” - Stephen Colbert

    May 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Visitor

      Brilliant 🙂

      May 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  6. Paul Jaramillo

    I sent a Report abuse on Errday, this is one sick person.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog


      May 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Errday

      Aww, that's so cute! Thinking anyone at CNN gives a shit about your little concerns is sad and pathetic.
      When you want to report something intelligent, I'm sure they'll ignore that too.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  7. The real Tom

    It cracks me up that fundies get wrapped around the axel about what less than 10% of the population does.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      Its easier to pick a fight with the 10%. What they didn't see coming were the 45% more that have their backs.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  8. kvankam

    Christians live more, have better mental and physical health, have less divorce rates, they use to give more to charity, and have better grades at school, even when we aren't smarter. See evidence at internet.

    Envy is expected.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • lobo

      Don't forget you make up your own facts too!

      May 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Observer

      "Christians have better grades at school, even when we aren't smarter."


      May 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      Simply not true. But I guess since god is not real you need a reason to push your religion on others.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Funny how Christians like you, ivan, never seem to be able to cite any sources for such claims.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • kvankam

      Evidence: http://dailycaller.com/2011/09/16/want-better-health-go-to-church/

      May 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Visitor

      No, Evangelicals have the highest divorce rate of any religion/non religious group in the country.

      Catholics and Atheists have the lowest.

      Look it up.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Sharon

      How about you now quote a source that has some credibility. And BTW, the link in the article to the supposed study doesn't work.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Visitor

      and yet, the lowest educational levels and highest poverty rates are in the most religious states. Look that up also.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Visitor

      I don't think you actually read this article and the (working) links. There are several articles citing that Religious adherence can help prevent suicide, and the extremely religious are less worried about things than the non religious, but less so than the moderately religious (the Middle of the Road religious i.e., moderates).

      Unless I missed it, these articles are not Christian specific. So this includes New Agers, Neo Pagans, Jews, Hindus, Christians of all strips including Catholics and Lutherans and Calvinists, Mormons, Jains, etc. If I am wrong you can provide where in the study this was controlled for "Christians" and what the definition is.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Doobs

      "Christians live more, have better mental and physical health, have less divorce rates, they use to give more to charity, and have better grades at school, even when we aren't smarter. See evidence at internet.

      Apparently what they don't have is the ability to write a factually correct, grammatically proper sentence.

      May 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  9. Penguins Hockey

    I always laugh a little whenever an entire group of people latch on to a response. It always strikes me as really odd. For example, if you say something about closing our borders or urban violence, the go to response almost always involve the mention of ' trailers, the south, hillbillies, or nascar.' When it's religion, it's almost always ' you have a persecution complex.' Is there a website that you people all get the same quips from ? And couldn't I just as easily say ' you have a gay persecution complex ' anytime you feel your way of life is being disrespected ? Couldn't I do that for blacks, latinos. muslims, etc etc ? It's just such a lazy response. I don't know, I like to think for myself. Maybe it's just me.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I really couldn't tell what you meant by your post. Your "thinking for yourself" seems somewhat ambiguous.

      Personally, I call out bigotry where I see it. There is more evidence to indicate that homosexuality is innate than there is proof of god. Therefore it's either personal discomfort, ignorance or bigotry behind the hatred. None of these things are terribly defensible.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Akira

      Well, you can say people have a gay persecution complex, but you'll look rather silly if they are not gay, don't you think?

      May 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • The Non Believer

      I go to higgsboson.com

      May 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • G to the T

      I think at least one of the reasons you see this more in relgious discussions is because christianity has integrated into it the idea that the "world" is "evil" and so persecution is seen as a validation of their beliefs. It's a neat trick really...

      May 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  10. Jesus freaker

    If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

    Leviticus 20:13

    Let's fight our way back into the Stone Age when gays were killed. Back when it was civil to execute an unmarried woman for not being a virgin. A simpler time when it was perfectly acceptable to beat your kids to death. What happened? How did we become a society where women, gays, children, and African Americans have rights?

    May 5, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Observer

      If a man lies with a woman, that implies in a bed.

      Guess this command is to tell brothers not to share a bed.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  11. Mike

    Christian is not a monolithic block. This particular kind of Christianity may be "hated" because of its beliefs and biblical teaching. This does not mean Christians are a minority or hated.

    Stupidity does not make a good argument.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  12. John

    Theres a reason why some of the most violent acts are caused by the extremely religous. The Human brain, although the most advanced on Earth, has its limits. It can only process so much stupidy before...SNAP.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  13. Thegoodman

    Just like all those poor oppressed slave owners and proponents of segregation. Those Christian bigots can't get a break. What next? I hope they make it through this trying time so they can spout their hatred for generations to come.

    May 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  14. oOo

    The poster below claims the Bible says being gay is an abomination. Since the article is about a "hated [Christian] minority", what exactly do Christians think? Therein lies the problem.

    The problem is nothing new. Christianity has always been conflicted – certain issues make that conflict more obvious. One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over four million members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. Thomas Jefferson hit the nail on the head over 200 years ago:

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    Some claim that Christianity and science are not incompatible, yet we find many who continue to ignore science on the issue of homosexuality. Is the problem poor education, steadfastness to one's own flavor of biblical interpretation, or both?

    The following is long, but note the quote from Professor MIchael King below in the section on psychology.

    The American Psychological Association states "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people", and says most people's sexual orientation is determined at an early age. Research into how sexual orientation in males may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises concerns about genetic profiling and prenatal testing."

    Professor Michael King states: "The conclusion reached by scientists who have investigated the origins and stability of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed early in life, and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice."

    The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

    "Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice."


    The following is from the article:

    Homosexuality ultimately a result of gene regulation, researchers find (12/11/2012 – LiveScience)

    [ The search for a "gay gene" may be off-target, new research finds. Another process called epigenetics that switches genes on and off may explain why homosexuality runs in families.

    Epigenetics are heritable changes caused by factors other than DNA. Instead of traits getting passed down through the genes, epigenetic change happens because of the way genes are regulated, or turned on and off.

    These genetic regulators may be the reason homosexuality persists in nature despite the fact that gay people are less likely to reproduce, suggests the new study published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology.

    "These things have evolved because they're good for the parents, but they sometimes, not [with] high frequency, but sometimes carry over" into offspring, study researcher William Rice, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told LiveScience. In a male fetus, Rice and his colleagues write, an epigenetic change that benefited the mother may lead to "feminization" of sexual preference — homo- or bisexuality. The same may be true for epigenetic changes passed down by dad to a female fetus. (The terms feminization and masculinization of sexual preference refer to sexual orientation only — not to physical or personality traits of the offspring.)

    The findings add to past research suggesting gay men haven't died out, because female relatives of gay men tend to have more children on average than other females. The study researchers specifically found that two genes passed on through the maternal line could produce this effect.

    Hormones, epigenetics and orientation

    Rice and his colleagues focused on epi-marks, which are molecular changes that act like temporary "switches" to turn genes on and off. If a gene is a blueprint, the epi-mark is the construction foreman who makes sure the product gets built. An epi-mark also determines when, where and how much a gene is expressed, according to the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

    These molecular switches are usually erased very early in the developmental process, but they can be passed down from generation to generation, too, Rice said.

    Some epi-marks are particularly important during fetal development, when they promote normal physical development in the sexes despite natural variations in testosterone during pregnancy. Researchers know that fetal exposure to too much testosterone can masculinize the genitals, brain or behavior of a genetically female fetus. Likewise, too little testosterone can make a genetically male fetus more feminized.

    But here's the catch: There's lots of overlap between the levels of testosterone male and female fetuses get exposed to. That means there must be another side to the story, Rice and his colleagues wrote.

    That side appears to be epigenetics, Rice said.

    "Early in development, we think these epi-marks are laid down so that girl fetuses will be relatively insensitive to testosterone and male fetuses will be relatively sensitive to testosterone," Rice said.

    Biological behavior

    Thus, if an epi-mark that kept a mother from getting exposed to high testosterone in development gets passed on to her son — the opposite sex — it could desensitize him to testosterone, contributing to his sexual preference for men. Similarly, if a male-specific epi-mark from dad gets passed to a daughter, it could "masculinize" her sexual preference, making her more interested in women.

    These findings could explain why twin studies show that homosexuality runs in families, but no "gay gene" can be found, Rice said. In identical twins, there's about a 20 percent chance that if one twin is gay, the other will be too. If genetic change were responsible for homosexuality, you'd expect a much higher match, Rice said. Epigenetics, however, can explain the heritability without the need for a specific genetic change.

    The hypothesis could be tested by examining epigenetic marks in parents of kids with gay versus straight offspring, Rice said. There are, of course, concerns that this knowledge could be used by parents who want to avoid gay offspring, Rice said, but that concern already exists around certain hormonal conditions in utero, which are known to contribute to an increased chance of offspring being lesbians.

    "That cat's already out of the bag," Rice said. He added that an understanding of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality could help emphasize that same-sex behavior is not "unnatural."

    "In fact, it's a major part of the natural world," Rice said. Fourteen percent of Western gulls raise chicks in female-female pairs, he pointed out. And 8 percent of male sheep show zero interest in fertile ewes, but get sexually excited by other rams. ]

    Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science.

    (Thomas Jefferson)

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (James Madison, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution, framer of the first ten Amendments; from A Memorial and Remonstrance as delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

    May 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      So then, the uniform codes of physical sensitivities are of propagandist nurturing?

      May 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • BaZinga

      Great post with a lot of great research to back it up; it is really refreshing to see a fellow student of science put forth factual commentary. My career is related to the sciences and have researched many of the same topics, particularily the biological area. The NIMBIOs site has a great article on the related epigenetic reasearch you mention.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      Oops, you almost threw up all your word salad, lion, dear. But it's just a little drool – I've got a hanky. Now finish your applesauce, dear.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • lol??

      oOo snake eyes, when did you change yer name from mama (K)onflicted??

      May 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Science

      Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

      The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

      The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

      Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

      May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


      May 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Russt

      For those who stand on scientific method to determine truth... Experts refer to this as unproven theories...

      May 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • G to the T

      @Russt – theories, yes. Unproven, no.

      May 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  15. Christian Privilege

    How dare you force me to live harmoniously with millions of people!

    May 5, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  16. ____________

    Yet another CNN swipe at Christianity. The reason? The Bible says being gay is an abomination. Heck, I guess that rules out half of CNN's staff.

    And CNN wonders why their ratings are in the toilet?

    May 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Answer

      Poor baby.

      You're persecuted.

      May 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Observer

      The bible also says that getting divorced and remarried makes you an ADULTERER.

      Guess you forgot about that. Just pick and choose.

      May 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Doobs

      Wahhhhhh! Wahhhhh! I can't be openly bigoted anymore! Wahhhhhhh!

      May 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • BaZinga

      It is also acceptable to burn witches according to Exodus 22:18; "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Why, just a couple months ago a fundamentalist christian mob burned a 22 year old mother in New Guinea who the group proclaimed to be a witch. The mob tortured the poor women first, out of christian love, of course.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • lol??

      Observer sayz.
      The bible also says that getting divorced and remarried makes you an ADULTERER.

      Do you need a license like a dog?? The gubmint is in charge of marriage. They told God to take a hike.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Doobs


      Duh. Our government is secular, and the church has no business telling the government who can and can't get married. Churches can still refuse to marry gay (or divorced) people if they choose.

      But you already know this. You just like to be disingenuous and silly with your fake redneck talk.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Lamb of Dog

    Women are not better than men. And men are not better than women.

    May 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Paul Jaramillo

      Men are the ones who do most of the killing in society and the most destructive ones too, how can you say that women are not better than men? Women are not perfect, we all have faults, but men are the ones who are the cause of most of human suffering. Stop being so blind the truth is in the facts, police reports, the victims and the cost in lost lives and misery.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      Thats a ridiculous statement. There are many good men and women. And there are bad men and women.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      Did you only read the first sentence?

      May 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • lol??

      "Paul Jaramillo sayz,
      Men are the ones who do most of the killing in society......." The Beast turned that power over to the woman. The Beasties think God will bless em for it.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  18. Christian Privilege

    Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!

    May 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Sam Yaza


      May 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Eric

      People speaking out against intolerance from Christians isn't persecution. I would find it laughable if it weren't so disgusting that so many so-called 'Christians' go out of their way to demonize gays, and incite violence and discrimination against gays, and yet when someone turns around and calls them bigots or explains why they think the 'Christian' position is wrong, then they moan about how horribly they are being oppressed and discriminated against. In recent months, we have seen many news reports of gay people being beaten, set on fire, or killed, and there have been numerous cases of young gays who have been driven to suicide by the vicious discrimination they face on a daily basis. I have yet to hear of even a single case of an anti-gay 'Christian' being treated in such a shameful way. All I hear about is how they got their pwecious widdle feewings hurt, and then they go around equating themselves with the martyrs or the victims of the Holocaust.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  19. Lou

    So, just because I have an opinion on something, I shouldn't share it? What if I don't like graffiti, should I not say anything, even if it is an eye sore? As long as I express it as my opinion and don't try to push it on people, it is just saying how I feel. No matter what the subject matter is, there are always going to be individuals who are zealous about what they believe and try to push it down everyone's throat.

    May 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, graffiti is property damage and a criminal offense. Homosexuality is neither.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • dogfood

      Christianity is for weak minded fools and ought to be eradicated. I'm just expressing my opinion. What's wrong with that?

      May 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Doobs

      Having an opinion about something isn't the problem. It only becomes a problem when your religion tries to encode their opinions into civil law.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  20. Betty Bowers

    1 Betty 1 1-3
    blessed is the christian who criticizes others faith, for we call this love.
    cursed are those who return the favor, for we call this persecution

    May 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Errday

      Ha ha! I bet that gets their panties in a bunch! Good show!

      May 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • lol??

      "Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

      Don't get confused on who "thee" turned out to be. Hint:think divorce.

      May 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • BaZinga

      Excellent!!! I like it

      May 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
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About this blog

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.