(Photo: Reuters/Allison Joyce)
Fewer Americans believe homosexuality is a sin than a little more than a year ago, according to a survey completed by a faith-based research group just 14 months after a similar study. Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said the reason for the substantial shift is most likely the result of President Barack Obama's "evolved" view of gay marriage.
Stetzer points out that halfway between the two polls Obama changed his pre-election (prior to first term) position concerning gay marriage.
"There is little doubt that the President's evolution on homosexuality probably impacted the evolution of cultural values," Stetzer states in his recent blog about the survey's release on Thursday. "This is a real and substantive shift, surprisingly large for a one-year time frame – though this was hardly a normal year on this issue."
A November 2012 survey of adults in the United States found 37 percent affirm a belief that homosexual behavior is a sin – a statistically significant change from a September 2011 LifeWay Research survey asking the same question. At that time, 44 percent answered, "Yes."
In contrast, the percentage of Americans who do not believe homosexuality is a sin remains nearly the same between the two surveys – 43 percent in September 2011 and 45 percent in November 2012 indicate this belief, with an increase in the percentage of those unsure of what they believe. Seventeen percent in the November 2012 survey said, "I don't know," an increase of 4 percent over the September 2011 survey.
These findings from LifeWay Research come as Pastor Louie Giglio withdrew on Thursday from giving the benediction at Obama's upcoming inauguration program in the face of criticism over a 15-year-old sermon referencing homosexuality as a sin. Stetzer noted the connection, saying, "The culture is clearly shifting on homosexuality and this creates a whole new issue: How will America deal with a minority view, strongly held by Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and so many others?"
The November 2012 survey also reveals Americans in the South (40 percent) are the most likely to select "Yes" to the question "Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?" as are Americans who attend religious services at least about once a week (61 percent), and those calling themselves "born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian" (73 percent).
Americans who never attend religious services are the most likely to say they do not believe homosexual behavior is a sin (71 percent).
"The issue at hand is an important one for many reasons," Stetzer said. "First, as I mentioned in my last post, there is a sizable minority in the United States holding to traditional religious beliefs. As I stated earlier today, this is also an important moment as Americans consider a simple question: are people of faith no longer welcome as they continue to hold the beliefs they have always held?"
Stetzer said he believes the trajectory toward greater acceptance of homosexuality will continue. However, he said, "There will always be a sizable minority of people, often people of faith, who hold minority views. Increasingly, Americans will have to wrestle with how to be tolerant in more than one direction.
The Inaugural Committee's decision to side with gay activists who are intolerant of Giglio's position referenced in his sermon 15 years ago may have emboldened others to push the Bible even farther out of the ceremony.
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell told his viewing audience on Friday that he is urging the president to not include the Bible in his inauguration on Jan. 21, The Blaze reported on its faith blog.
"After discussing Pastor Louie Giglio's recent decision to remove himself from Obama's choice of benediction speakers, O'Donnell launched into a tirade against the Bible and its presence at the historical event," Blaze editor Billy Hallowell reported. "In addition to defending the gay rights movement against Giglio's nearly-20-year-old sermon, the MSNBC host dismissed the Bible as an antiquated book that virtually nobody can agree with in its entirety."
LifeWay Research – Methodology: The survey, conducted Nov. 14-16, 2012, sampled an online panel representing the adult population of the United States. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender, and education to reflect the population. The completed sample of 1,191 surveys provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.