Homosexuality as an issue of religion and politics in the USA

Seminar Paper, 2006

18 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of Contents


1. The general conflict

2. American churches on homosexuality
2.1. Fundamentalist denominations
2.2. Conservative denominations
2.3. Mainline denominations
2.4. Liberal denominations
2.5. Post-denominational churches

3. The public opinion about homosexuality

4. The current legislation
4.1. General information
4.2. Massachusetts way to same-sex marriage
4.3. The Federal Marriage Amendment

5. George W. Bush and the issue of homosexuality



The USA is a country that has a deeply-rooted religious tradition on the one hand and that separates religion and state like almost no other country on the other hand. However, the border between this religious consciousness in private and this strong secularism in public life often becomes blurry. There are certain issues like school prayer, sex education or abortion that are of an extreme importance for religious people. These make up a majority of the American society and a significant percentage of potential voters. Consequently, many politicians (including the current president George W. Bush) pay attention, react or even give in to this pressure in order to maintain a solid basis of voters that secures their political position.

An important issue in religion and politics in the USA is homosexuality and the related issue of same-sex marriage. Homosexuality has been being not tolerated and banned by most religious groups for a long time, but in our liberal society today many churches seem to develop a certain degree of tolerance towards homosexuals and to change their perspective on homosexuality. This makes the whole issue controversial since the perspectives in society also change. The major question in politics is whether homosexual couples should obtain the same rights (or at least some rights) as heterosexual couples through marriage or civil union or not. The importance of this issue also became clear for George W. Bush when he started the campaign for his re-election.

The aim of this topic is to prepare an introduction to the vast issue of the problematic relationship between religion and homosexuality and an overview of the positions of the American Christian churches towards homosexuality, to show the power of the religious groups (and the public opinion), to take a look at George W. Bush in his re-election campaign and to highlight the current legislation in the USA.

1. The general conflict

Homosexuality is a problematic issue in many religions that oppose homosexuality basing their argumentation on holy and religious texts as well as on the religious tradition[1]. Religious groups present a number of arguments against homosexuals with different degrees of tolerance:

- One argument is the homosexual’s inability to reproduce. Homosexuals cannot bear a child and found a family[2]. Still, this is seen from a one-sided point view because homosexual men do have the ability to father a child and homosexual women do have the ability to deliver a child. Furthermore, homosexual couples could adopt and raise a child and by that perform the same social function as heterosexual couples. However, this inability to found a family on a natural way (through intercourse) is sufficient for many religions to regard homosexual unions as minor. Especially in the USA, family is a highly important value in society and a major aim in life.
- A further argument (as far as this can be seen as a real argument) is that homosexual orientation itself is sinful. Since such dogmatic arguments can be hardly accepted in a secularized society, European religious groups do not accept this argument[3]. Nevertheless, fundamentalist churches in the very religious USA still follow this dogma.
- Finally, homosexual fantasies and bodily acts are regarded as sinful by many churches[4]. On the one hand, this relates to homosexual’s inability to father a child. The sole purpose of intercourse is seen in reproduction and the foundation of a family. Since this is not possible for homosexuals their sexual contact is believed to have no justification and to be sinful, therefore. On the other hand, some churches still believe that human beings can chose their sexual orientation, i.e. either to be homosexual or heterosexual (or bisexual). Homosexual men and women are believed to choose a sinful way which they could leave again (e.g. through religious faith and practice). Today, most scientists agree that homosexuality stems from inborn genetic information and the personal development and surroundings.

This last argument is one to reasons why some churches heavily oppose pro-homosexual legislation (equal right protection, same-sex marriage, hate crime protection). This could encourage people to practice homosexual activities[5].

Although religion still plays a role in the whole discussion about homosexuality, tolerance has increased in recent decades because of the following factors[6]:

- The sexual revolution in the 1960s made people more open toward issues concerning sexuality. It widened their horizon and helped reduce prejudices and ignorance.
- The homosexual rights movement had a similar effect. It showed that homosexuality is something that really exists and that is a natural form of sexuality.
- The growing understanding of the difference between homosexuality and paedophilia helped to destroy the picture of homosexual men all being child abusers.
- As mentioned above, scientific research on the cause of sexual orientation also plays an important role. Most scientists state that sexual orientation is defined by a variety of factors, including genetic factors, and is not a matter of choice.
- Finally secularization, a greater separation of church and state, took away some of the churches’ power to shape people’s opinion.

The discussion about homosexuality within churches is about the following rights for sexually active and/or celibate homosexuals[7]:

- the right of remaining a full member of the church
- the possibility to obtain priesthood
- the possibility of a formal religious ceremony for homosexual couples (union, civil union, commitment, marriage).

2. American churches on homosexuality

The USA has a vast variety of different churches (which is a result of the religious freedom in the USA). These churches have different traditions and different ideologies. Consequently, there positions towards homosexuality differ too. Of course, these churches cannot be strictly classified into different categories, but for the purpose of this paper they will be labelled as and divided into fundamentalist, conservative, mainline and liberal denominations. The positions of these churches will be focused on in the following.

2.1. Fundamentalist denominations

Fundamentalist churches actively work against homosexuality and homosexual rights. Fundamentalist churches have set the dogma that homosexuality itself is a sin. They believe that homosexuality is a matter of choice. The only possibility to live a moral life for someone who has chosen this “wrong” way is to remain celibate and absolutely abstinent. Since intercourse between homosexuals does not have the purpose of reproduction and founding a family it is regarded as sinful.

There is also active discrimination against homosexuals within the church. Homosexual men and women have no access to ecclesiastical marriage or priesthood. Furthermore, fundamentalist churches regard discrimination against homosexuals as appropriate in the areas of employment, protection of the (heterosexual) family and the protection of social institutions. The Southern Baptist Convention is a prominent representative of fundamentalist churches[8],[9]

2.2. Conservative denominations

Conservative denominations do not really take any really significant action except from occasionally condemning homosexuality. This can be clearly seen in the Roman Catholic Church. There are no controversies – at least these are not exposed to the public. The church hierarchy speaks with a single voice. Men of a lower position in the church hierarchy (e.g. priests) are even prohibited to talk about certain issues and to suggest changes within the church policy.


[1] cf. „Homosexualität und Religion.“Wikipedia: Die freie Enzyklopädie. 02 September 2006. 05 September 2006 <http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexualit%C3%A4t_und_Religion>.

[2] cf. ibid.

[3] cf. „Homosexuality and religion.“Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopaedia. 28 August 2006. 05 September 2006 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_religion>.

[4] cf. ibid.

[5] cf. Wikipedia: Homosexuality and religion.

[6] cf. ibid.

[7] cf. „Christian denominations and homosexuality.“Religious Tolerance. 09 July 2006. 05 September 2006 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_chur2.htm>.

[8] cf. Christian denominations and homosexuality.

[9] “Southern Baptist Convention and homosexuality.” Religious Tolerance. 03 July 2003. 05 September 2006 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_sbc.htm>.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Homosexuality as an issue of religion and politics in the USA
University of Innsbruck  (Department of English)
“One Nation under God?” – Religion and Politics in America
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Homosexuality, Nation, Religion, Politics, USA, America, Rights
Quote paper
Stefan Hinterholzer (Author), 2006, Homosexuality as an issue of religion and politics in the USA, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/65853


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