Monday, July 21, 2008

People of faith more moderate on gays

Reporting in The Times Ruth Gledhill says:
Today, a report commissioned by Stonewall claims that religious people are more positive towards homosexual people than is claimed by conservative faith leaders. According to resarch by academics at Leeds University, faith leaders are failing to reflect what the people in the pews really think about gays.

Read the report here.

Some quotes:
The report Love Thy Neighbour, a report commissioned by the gay rights lobby group Stonewall, says Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian believers are "significantly more moderate" in their views on homosexuality than is often alleged on their behalf.

"When the perceived tension between faith and sexual orientation is discussed in public, the agenda often becomes so dominated by aggression and sensationalism that levels of respect between faith communities and gay communities are overlooked," the report says.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: ‘Witnessing the tragic 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."

Those interviewed for the report said that new legal protections for lesbian and gay people, including civil partnerships, have had a "civilising effect" on British society. The increased acceptance of gay people on a national and political level has also had a positive impact on attitudes at a local level, they said.

Last year a YouGov survey of 2,000 people published by Stonewall found that 84 per cent of people who identified as religious disagreed with the statement "homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances."

Interviewees suggested that organisations working towards community cohesion should make more effort to listen to all people of faith, not just claimed religious leaders.

Catherine, 58, a Christian, told researchers: "It isn’t, in my opinion, the church’s role to say to gays and lesbians: 'You’re not welcome, you can’t serve God and you can’t be a Christian”. That just doesn’t make any sense to me at all."

Nadish, 60, a Hindu, 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."

Husna, 24, a Muslim, said: "I’ve come across some gay people and I think I have changed my opinion. I have worked with these people. They’re really, really nice people … they are people."

Janet, 20, Jewish, said: "One gay man is from a very Orthodox religious family and his family are fine with it and, you know, it was a bit of gossip, like people did talk about it, but now everyone’s fine with it. And they’ve got boyfriends and it’s fine."

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