Pray the Gay Will Stay? Church Shopping and Religious Gatekeeping Around Homosexuality in an Audit Study of Christian Church Officials

Breanne Fahs, Eric Swank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although churches are often seen as organizations that oppose same-gender relationships, little research has examined how church representatives express such sentiments to people who are looking for a new church. This audit study from 2019 examined the ways that Christian churches (N = 255) shunned or welcomed sexual minorities in 4 cities in a large metropolitan area of the southwestern United States. Each church was contacted via e-mail by a person (gender-neutral and racially ambiguous name) who was "new to the area" and "looking for a church to get connected with." The e-mail asked about the church's position on homosexuality. The results revealed seven themes in the e-mail responses about homosexuality: (a) explicitly homophobic references to biblical view on sexuality and marriage; (b) lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (LGBs) welcomed but compared to other antisocial or "deviant" practices/ behaviors; (c) LGBs welcomed but lumped in with "all sinners"; (d) LGBs welcomed but celibacy and heterosexuality promoted; (e) avoidant or deferred responses; (f) describes having gay and lesbian church members; and (g) LGBs welcomed openly and without reservations. Implications for understanding the nuances of homophobia within church rhetoric are discussed, as are strategies for potentially challenging homophobic discourse that is deployed and endorsed by Christian churches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Christian churches
  • Homophobia
  • LGB identity
  • Microaggressions
  • Religious attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Psychology(all)

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