• When and why is religious attendance associated with anti-gay bias? A justification-suppression model approach

      Hoffarth, Mark; Department of Psychology
      Even in relatively tolerant countries, anti-gay bias remains socially divisive, despite being widely viewed as violating social norms of tolerance. From a Justification-Suppression Model (JSM) framework, social norms may generally suppress anti-gay bias in tolerant countries, yet bias may be “released” by religious justifications among those who resist gay rights progress. I hypothesized that more frequent religious attendance would be associated with greater anti-gay bias, that this relation would be stronger in countries where anti-gay bias more strongly violates social norms of tolerance, and that the relation between religious attendance and anti-gay bias would be partially accounted for by religious justifications. In Part 1, I examined the relation between religious attendance and anti-gay bias in the US. In Part 2, I examined the relation between religious attendance and anti-gay bias across different countries. Finally, in Part 3, I examined religious justifications for anti-gay bias. Across large, nationally representative US samples and international samples (representing a total of 97 different countries), over 215,000 participants, and various indicators of anti-gay bias (e.g., dislike, moral condemnation, opposing gay rights), more frequent religious attendance was uniquely associated with greater anti-gay bias, over and above religious fundamentalism, political ideology, religious denomination, and other theoretically relevant covariates. Moreover, in 4 of 6 multilevel models, religious attendance was associated with anti-gay bias in countries with greater gay rights recognition, but was unrelated to anti-gay bias in countries with lower gay rights recognition. Google searches for a religious justification (“love the sinner hate the sin”) coincided temporally with gay-rights relevant searches. In U.S. and Canadian samples, much of the association between religious attendance and anti-gay bias was explained by “sinner-sin” religious justification, with religious attendance not associated with anti-gay bias when respondents reported relatively low familiarity with this justification. These findings suggest that social divisions on homosexuality in relatively tolerant social contexts may be in large part due to religious justifications for anti-gay bias (consistent with the JSM). Potential interventions building on these findings may include encouraging religious leaders to promote norms of tolerance and acceptance, increasing intergroup contact between frequent religious attenders and gays, and perspective-taking exercises.