Religious people not as homophobic as leaders think reports Stonewall

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

A Stonewall survey has found that religious leaders do not adequately represent their followers views on homosexuality.

Love Thy Neighbour, a report published by the gay equality group, interviewed followers of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu faiths.

The interviews were conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds led by Professor Gill Valentine, Director of Leeds Social Science Institute.

Amir, a 30 year old Muslim who was questioned for Love Thy Neighbour said: “To judge somebody because of their sexuality is the same as judging them because of their colour. It’s not acceptable.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said:

“Witnessing the saddening divisions in the Church of England demonstrated at this week’s Lambeth Conference, it’s telling that so many people of faith say they actually live, work and socialise with lesbian and gay people, and that significantly reduces negative ideas about difference.

“Many Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus are clearly markedly more moderate that we are often allowed to believe.

“The stark conclusion to draw when it comes to religion and homosexuality is that it may be time to start listening to the voices of the many people of faith in Britain which have until now not been heard enough.”

The Lambeth Conference has highlighted the schism in the Anglican church over homosexuality.

260 bishops have declined invitations because of the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

The only openly gay Bishop in the Anglican Church, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was denied an invitation to Lambeth because of his sexuality.

The Stonewall report suggests that civil partnerships for same-sex couples had helped increase acceptance for the LGBT community across British society.

This confirms the findings of another report published in 2007 by Stonewall, Living Together, a survey of 2,000 people found that most followers hold much more tolerant views on gay rights than their religious leaders often claimed on their behalf.

84% of those who were religious disagreed with the statement “homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances.”

Participants of Love Thy Neighbour made a number of recommendations.

They suggested acknowledging the existence of religious gay and lesbian people.

Participants said they should listen to quieter voices within faith communities and not just those who “make the most noise.”

They also suggested that anyone working towards tightening community relations should listen to peoples of all faiths, and not just religious leaders.

Nadish, a 60 year old Hindu who took part in the report said: “Everybody has got the right to live life in his own way … so if somebody is lesbian or homosexual, it’s entirely up to them.”