Updated Sunday lunchtime
Last Wednesday, John Bingham wrote in the Telegraph Gay marriage: church leaders at odds with opinion in the pews, study suggests
Despite vocal opposition to David Cameron’s plan to allow same-sex couples to marry from the leaders of almost all the major faith groups, the faithful are just as likely to support it quietly as oppose it, the survey found.
And when those who actively describe themselves as religious but do not attend services regularly are included, more Roman Catholics and Anglicans back the redefinition of marriage than oppose it, it suggests.
Notably, the polling found that within most religious groups there are also minorities who believe that same-sex marriage is wrong but still think that it should be allowed.
The findings emerge from a survey of more than 4,000 people, commissioned by the organisers of the regular Westminster Faith Debates.
The press release from the debate organisers is available: Press Release – ‘Do Christians Really Oppose Gay Marriage?’
Now Jonathan Clatworthy at Modern Church has written Gay marriage poll and Christian morality in a post that makes the detailed survey data much more accessible.
…Most churches claim to welcome everyone irrespective of sexual orientation, but only 21% of the public think they do. Given the overall balance of opinion among religious people, this is telling: clearly the opinions of church leaders are making gays and lesbians feel much less welcome than the average church thinks they would be.
Other predictors are age (the older you are the more likely you are to oppose it) and gender (disapproval is mostly a man’s thing).
Overall, the more emphasis people give to religious authority, the less they support same-sex marriage. Those most opposed are those who both claim certainty about belief in God and also make decisions primarily on the basis of explicit religious authorities. The poll sets them at 9% of the population.
So gone are the days when church leaders played an influential role in the moral debates of the nation. Now their pronouncements are only of interest to church members, and even they only treat them as authoritative if they agree with them anyway…
Update A post referencing this poll, among others, has now appeared at BRIN and is titled Politico-Religious News. The same-sex marriage topic is the first one it deals with.
…Overall, 44% of Britons disapproved of the opposition to same-sex marriage of the mainstream Christian Churches, with 33% choosing to back the Churches, and 23% uncertain. Hostility to the Churches’ stance against same-sex marriage was notable among Labour and Liberal Democrat voters (54% and 56% respectively), the 18-24s (56%), Scots (52%), degree-holders (54%), those professing no religion (60%), definite disbelievers in God (60%), and those whose lives were guided by science (55%). Agreement with the Churches’ line was concentrated among Conservatives (46%), the over-60s (51%), Baptists (60%), Muslims (52%), the self-styled religious (54%), individuals practising their faith (51%), definite believers in God (50%), and among those guided by religious leaders (65%), their religion (58%), religious teachings (57%), or God (56%).
Notwithstanding a tendency for people of faith to be disproportionately less disposed to same-sex marriage, among Christians who contended that same-sex marriage is wrong only 26% explicitly cited religion or scripture as the basis for their opposition. More common explanations of their position were the assertion that marriage should be between a man and a woman (79%), the claim that same-sex marriage would undermine the traditional family of a mother and a father (63%), and the conviction that it is not the best context in which to bring up children (52%). Christians who regarded same-sex marriage as right viewed the matter in terms of equality (77%) and the non-exclusivity of faithful love to heterosexual couples (70%).
It should be remembered that the fieldwork for this YouGov poll took place immediately before the Second Reading debate on the Bill on 5 February, when the salience of same-sex marriage was very high in respect of public opinion and the media. It is possible that views have shifted somewhat since, because either a) the salience of the issue has dropped, b) the fall-out from the Cardinal O’Brien affair in Scotland has made Church lobbying against the Bill somewhat less credible in England and Wales, or c) some Christians accept the inevitability of the Bill becoming law, given the substantial Commons majority at Second Reading.
On the last point, it is certainly the case that the Churches have had to accommodate themselves to all manner of things over the years which instinctively they did not like the sound of. These include civil partnerships which, however lauded by most Church leaders now (as justification for same-sex marriage not being needed), were widely opposed by people of faith at the time of their introduction.