Religiousness, Religious Orientation, and Attitudes Towards Gays and Lesbians1


  • 1

    The authors wish to express their appreciation to Kathleen Sheridan for her helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The authors also wish to express their gratitude to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund for their funding of the community attitude survey described in Study 1. The authors also wish to express their appreciation to attorneys Sandra Lowe and Evan Wolfson of Lambda and William J. Sheaffer for insightful contributions to the design of the survey. Finally the authors express their gratitude to and admiration for Deputy Tom Woodard, Orange County Sheriffs Office, without whose courage none of this would have occurred.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Randy D. Fisher, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida, Box 25000, Orlando, FL, 32816.


Two studies are reported that examine the relationships among religiousness, religious orientation, and prejudice toward gays and lesbians. Study 1 reports the results of a survey done for the purposes of scientific jury selection. These results suggest that Baptists, fundamentalists, and “Christians” display more antigay prejudice than do Catholics, Jews, and many Protestant denominations, but even many supporters of gay-tolerant religions show more antigay prejudice than those claiming no religious preference. Among those with a religious preference, frequency of worship is significantly related to antigay prejudice among those belonging to antigay denominations, but not among those belonging to more gay tolerant religious faiths.

Study 2 reports the results of a study of college students regarding religiousness, religious orientation, and prejudice toward gays and lesbians. Results showed that self reported religiousness, frequency of worship, and Batson's internal and external scales were all positively correlated with measures of prejudice toward gays and lesbians, whereas scores on the Quest (Interactional) scale were negatively correlated. Results of both studies strongly challenge the view that those with an intrinsic religious orientation are unprejudiced. It is argued that a social influence process can account for the role played by religious practice and beliefs in creating and maintaining negative attitudes toward gays and lesbians.