UK study: 61% of Christians back equal rights for gay couples

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Results of a poll released today say 61% of people in the UK who identify as Christian back fully equal rights for gay couples.

The 2011 Ipsos MORI study explored the “beliefs, knowledge and attitudes” of people who identified as Christian after the nationwide census last year.

74% of respondents said as Christians they thought religion should not have a special influence on public life.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Six in ten respondents, 61%, agreed that gays should have the same rights in all aspects of their lives as straight people.

Only 29% said they disapproved of sexual relationships between gays. Nearly half said they did not actively disapprove.

Commenting on the results of the research, Richard Dawkins said: “In recent years Christian campaign groups have become increasingly vocal.

“Whether demanding special rights for Christians to be exempted from equalities legislation, strenuously opposing all attempts to review the law on assisted suicide, or campaigning against further social advances such as equal rights for gay people to marry, it is now clear that they are completely out of step, not just with the population as a whole, but also with a significant majority of Christians.

“Britain is a secular society, with secular, humane values. There is overwhelming support for these values, even among those who think of themselves as Christian. Just as importantly, there is also deep opposition to the state promoting religion in our society. When even Christians overwhelmingly oppose the intermingling of religion and state policy, it is clearly time for the government to stop ‘doing God’.”

71.6% of respondents to the national UK Census in 2001 said they were Christians. Results from 2011’s census have not yet been published.

Out of the Christians polled in 2011, 57% said state-funded schools should teach knowledge about the world’s faiths without any bias towards Christianity. They also believed the school should not try to promote belief.

The data raises questions of whether it is possible to reflect the views of the UK’s self-identified Christian population on political issues and how widely held religious beliefs on gay issues are.

Half the respondents who identified as Christian said they did not think of themselves as being religious.

Only 10% said they would draw on religious teaching to make a moral decision compared with 54% who would act according to their own “inner” moral sense.

On this data, Dawkins said: “Despite the best efforts of church leaders and politicians to convince us that religion is still an important part of our national life, these results demonstrate that it is largely irrelevant, even to those who still label themselves Christian.

“When it comes to belief, practice or even the most elementary knowledge of the Bible, it is clear that faith is a spent force in the UK, and it is time our policy-makers woke up to that reality and stopped trying to impose beliefs on society that society itself has largely rejected.

“In the past, there have often been attempts to use the Christian figure in the Census to justify basing policy on the claim that faith is important to the British people. This time, any attempt to do so will clearly be inexcusable.”

Gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust said it welcomed the findings of the poll.

George Broadhead, secretary of the Trust, told “These findings must be very welcome both to Humanist and secularists as well as LGBT people. As far as Humanists and secularists are concerned, the findings support their campaign against totally unfair and unjustifiable religious privileges such as Anglican bishops sitting in House of Lords as of right and taxpayers money being used to fund faith schools.

“As far as LGBT people are concerned, it is gratifying that there is such strong support for LGBT rights despite the hostility to these from Anglican, Catholic and other Christian Churches.”

1,136 adults who identified themselves as Christian were interviewed face-to-face in April 2011.