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LGBT and religion topics

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LGBT and religion topics

The relationship between religion and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can vary greatly across time and place, within and between different religions and sects, and regarding different forms of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism.

Some of the authoritative bodies and doctrines of the world's largest religions may view these negatively. This can range from quietly discouragement, explicitly forbidding same-sex sexual practices or sex/gender reassignment among adherents, actively opposing social acceptance of LGBT identities, to execution of people engaging in homosexual acts while tolerating sex/gender reassignment in specific cases.

Liberal and progressive voices within these religions tend to view LGBT people more positively, and some liberal religious denominations may bless same-sex marriages, as well as accepting and marrying people who are transgender. Historically, some cultures and religions accommodated, institutionalised, or revered same-sex love and sexuality;[1][2] such mythologies and traditions can be found around the world;[3] elements of religious and cultural incorporation of non-heterosexual practice can still be identified in traditions that have survived into the modern era, such as the Berdache,[4] Hijra,[5] and Xanith.[6]

Religious views of LGBT people

According to a 2006 Australian survey, LGBT Australians, compared to the general Australian population, were much more likely to have no religious affiliation, much less likely to be affiliated with a Christian denomination, and more likely to be affiliated with a non-Christian religion. The distribution of religions that LGBT Australians were raised in, however, was similar to that of the general population. Men, particularly bisexual men, were more likely to be Christian and more likely to have stayed in the same religion. Lesbians were more likely to have left the religion they were raised in and be currently unaffiliated.[7]

A 2004 survey of LGB New Zealanders found that 73% had no religion, 14.8% were Christian and 2.2% were Buddhist. In contrast, in 2001 census the general New Zealand population reported 59.8% Christian and 29.2% no religion. When looking at change since 1966, LGB people are disaffiliating with Christianity at a rate 2.37 times the rate of the general population in New Zealand. In the survey 59.8% reported a belief in a spiritual force, god or gods; this differed significantly by gender, with 64.9% of women and 55.5% of men reporting such a belief.[8]

The Radical Faeries are a worldwide queer spiritual movement, founded in 1979 in the United States. Radical Faerie communities are generally inspired by aboriginal, native or traditional spiritualities, especially those that incorporate queer sensibilities.

Religious groups and public policy

Opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights is often associated with conservative religious views. The American Family Association and other religious groups have promoted boycotts of corporations whose policies support the LGBT community.

On the other hand, the Unitarian Universalist Association supports the freedom to marry [9] and compares resistance to it to the resistance to abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and the end of anti-miscegenation laws.[10]

Lesbians and gay men face particular problems in conservative Islamic nations where laws generally prohibit same-sex sexual behavior; where interpretation of Sharia Law on male homosexuality carries the death penalty this is quite a big problem for gay men, and this form of discrimination is seen as a breach of human rights by international human rights Amnesty International; with the signature of the USA in 2009, the proposed UN declaration on LGBT rights has now been signed by every European secular state and all western nations, as well as others from South America and other countries around the world; 67 members of the UN have signed to date; there was an opposing statement put forward by Muslim nations, and this has been signed by 57 member states, the majority being in Africa and Asia. 68 out of the total 192 countries have not yet signed either statement.

Homosexuality and religion

Transgender and religion

Views of specific religions

Abrahamic religions



Christian denominations have a variety of beliefs about LGBT people, and the moral status of same-sex sexual practices and gender variance. LGBT people may be barred from membership, accepted as laity, or ordained as clergy, depending on the denomination.

The Roman Catholic Church today welcomes people attracted to the same sex, but teaches that homosexual relationships and acts are sinful.[11] They do not consider transgender individuals as anything other than the sex they were assigned at birth.[12] Eastern Orthodoxy holds similar views on homosexuality.[13] Protestant denominations have a wide range of views. Some denominations have similar views to the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, and teach that all sexual relations outside of traditional marriage between a man and a woman are sinful, such as the Reformed Church in America,[14] Southern Baptist Convention,[15] Mormons[16] and Jehovah's Witnesses.[17] Others, such as the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,[18] the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the Lutheran Church of Denmark, the Lutheran Church in Norway, the Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, the German Lutheran and United Churches in Evangelical Church in Germany do not consider same-sex relations immoral, and will ordain LGBT clergy and do blessings of same-sex unions.


Islamic views on homosexuality are influenced by the rulings prescribed by the Qur'an and the teachings of the prophet Muhammed. The mainstream interpretation of Qur'anic verses and hadith condemn sexual acts between members of the same sex (along with most forms of extramarital relations).[19] In contrast, transsexual individuals are often more accepted; for example, the Iranian government not only allows and recognises sex reassignment surgery, but also subsidises the procedure for transgender citizens.[20]

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith teaches that the only acceptable form of sexual expression is within marriage, and Bahá'í marriage is defined in the religion's texts as exclusively between one man and one woman.[21][22] Bahá'ís stress the importance of absolute chastity for any unmarried person,[23] and focus on personal restraint. The Universal House of Justice, the elected governing body of the Bahá'í Faith, has stated that "the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a 'natural' or permanent phenomenon."[24] The Universal House of Justice has approved of and encouraged Shoghi Effendi's idea of possible medical treatment.[25] However, membership in the Bahá'í community is open to lesbian and gay adherents,[26] who are to be "advised and sympathized with".[27][28][29]

Indian religions

Ardhanarisvara, the hermaphrodite form of Siva. Tiruvenkadu. Chola, 11th century AD.

Among the religions that originated in India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, homosexuality is rarely discussed, although contemporary religious authorities tend to view homosexuality negatively. Ancient religious texts such as the Vedas often refer to people of a third gender, who are neither female nor male. Some see this third gender as an ancient parallel to modern western lesbian, gay, transgender and/or intersex identities. This third sex is also negatively valued as a pariah class in some texts.[30]


Hinduism has taken various positions, ranging from positive to neutral or antagonistic. Referring to the nature of Samsara,the Rigveda,one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism says 'Vikruti Evam Prakriti' (perversity/diversity is what nature is all about, or, what seems un-natural is also natural), which some scholars believe recognizes homosexuality as natural, if not an approval of homosexuality.[31] Sexuality is rarely discussed openly in Hindu society, and LGBT issues are largely a taboo subject — especially among the strongly religious. A "third gender" has been acknowledged within Hinduism since Vedic times. Several Hindu texts, such as Manu Smriti[32] and Sushruta Samhita, assert that some people are born with either mixed male and female natures, or sexually neuter, as a matter of natural biology. They worked as hairdressers, flower-sellers, servants, masseurs and prostitutes. Today, many people of a "third gender" (hijras) live throughout India, mostly on the margins of society, and many still work in prostitution, or make a livelihood as beggars.

Several Hindu religious laws contain injunctions against homosexual activity, while some Hindu mythologies speaks favorably of lesbian relations and some third-gendered individuals were highly regarded by Hindu legends. Hindu groups are historically not unifyed regarding the issue of homosexuality, each one having a distinct doctrinal view.[33][34][35]

The Indian Kama Sutra, written in the 4th century AD, contains passages describing eunuchs or "third-sex" males performing oral sex on men.[36] However, the author was "not a fan of homosexual activities" and treated such individuals with disdain, according to historian Devdutt Pattanaik.[37] Similarly, some medieval Hindu temples and artifacts openly depict both male homosexuality and lesbianism within their carvings, such as the temple walls at Khajuraho. Some infer from these images that Hindu society and religion were previously more open to variations in human sexuality than they are at present.

In some Hindu sects(specially among the hijras), many divinities are androgynous. There are Hindu deities who are intersex (both male and female); who manifest in all three genders; who switch from male to female or from female to male; male deities with female moods and female deities with male moods; deities born from two males or from two females; deities born from a single male or single female; deities who avoid the opposite sex; deities with principal companions of the same sex, and so on. However, this is not accepted by the majority of Hindus, and is often considered heretical in nature. Those who do accept it justify with the belief that both God and nature are unlimitedly diverse and God is difficult to comprehend.



The Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, does not explicitly mention homosexuality. The Guru Granth Sahib is seen as the spiritual authority on all Sikh matters.

Some modern Sikh leaders have condemned homosexuality. Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti of the temporal Sikh authority (Akal Takht), has condemned homosexuality while reminding visiting Sikh-Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) of their religious duty to oppose same-sex marriage.[38] The Sikh religious body, the Akal Takht, has issued an edict condemning gay marriage.[39]

Other Sikhs point out that Sikhism does not condemn homosexuality or gay marriage[40] reminding them that the Guru Granth Sahib, leaves this as a matter of personal conscience.[41]

East Asian religions





Religious Science

Religious Science is a teaching based on the text book "The Science of Mind" by Dr. Ernest Holmes first published in 1926 and revised in 1938. This 'new thought' tradition is related to the thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the transcendentalists as well as drawing on the main teachings of all the great world religions at the mystical level. The churches or centers are under an umbrella of "Centers for Sprititual Living". From its beginning Religious Science has advanced the social progressive edge by including all those regardless of sexual orientation fully into ministry, and blessing the marriages of same gender couples.


The Church of Satan has always accepted gays, lesbians and bisexuals since its foundation in 1966.[42] The church supports legalization of same-sex marriages.[42]


Unitarian Universalism

Unitarian Universalism and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) have a long-standing tradition of welcoming LGBT people. The first ordained minister of any religion in the US or Canada to come out was the Rev. James Stoll in 1969.[43] There have been UUA resolutions supporting people regardless of sexual orientation since 1970, and a popular program of becoming a "Welcoming Congregation" since 1989. The UUA has officially supported UUA clergy performing Services of Union between same-sex couples since 1984,[44] and has supported same-sex marriage since 1996.[45]

The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) similarly operates a Gender and Sexual Diversity Monitoring Group[46] and, like the UUA (of which it became autonomous in 2002), has Welcoming Congregations.[47] The Canadian Unitarian Universalist congregations perform same-sex marriages and the CUC supports this work through its Lay Chaplaincy program.[48]




See also

General references

  • John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, University Of Chicago Press, 1st ed. 1980 ISBN 0-226-06710-6, paperback Nov. 2005 ISBN 0-226-06711-4
  • Dane S. Claussen, ed. Sex, Religion, Media, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. ISBN 0-7425-1558-3
  • Mathew Kuefler (editor), The Boswell Thesis : Essays on Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, University Of Chicago Press, Nov. 2005 ISBN 0-226-45741-9
  • Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, New World Library, 1st ed. 1999, paperback 2004 ISBN 1-57731-480-8
  • Arlene Swidler: Homosexuality and World Religions. Valley Forge 1993. ISBN 1-56338-051-X
  • Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds.), "Islamic Homosexualities: culture, history, and literature" NYU Press New York 1997
  • Wafer, Jim (1991) "The Taste of Blood: Spirit Possession in Brazilian Candomblé" UPP Philadelphia
  • Wafer, Jim (1997) "Muhammad and Male Homosexuality" in "Islamic Homosexualities: culture, history, and literature" by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds.), NYU Press New York
  • Wafer, Jim (1997) "The Symbolism of Male Love in Islamic Mysthical Literature" in "Islamic Homosexualities: culture, history, and literature" by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds.), NYU Press New York 1997


  1. ^ Boswell, John (2005). Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality. University Of Chicago Press. 
  2. ^ Dynes, Wayne; Donaldson, Stephen (1992). Asian homosexuality. Routledge.  
  3. ^ Carpenter, Edward (1914). Intermediate Types among Primitive Types: A Study in Social Evolution. New York: Mitchell Kennerley.  
  4. ^ Williams, Walter (1992). The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture. Beacon House.  
  5. ^ Nanda, Serena (1998). Neither Man Nor Woman. Wadsworth Publishing.  
  6. ^ Wikan, Unni (September 1978). "The Omani Xanith: A Third Gender Role?". Man, New Series (Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland) 13 (3): 473–475. 
  7. ^ Couch, Murray; Hunter Mulcare, Marian Pitts, Anthony Smith and Anne Mitchell (April 2008). "The religious affiliation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians: a report from the Private Lives survey". People and Place 16 (1). 
  8. ^ Henrickson, Mark (2007). "Lavender Faith: Religion, Spirituality and Identity in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual New Zealanders". Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work 26 (3). 
  9. ^
  10. ^ UUSM - Services & Sermons
  11. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2357,Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation for Persons with Homosexual Tendencies
  12. ^ Norton, John (14 Jan 2003). "Vatican says 'sex-change' operation does not change person's gender". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  13. ^ On Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life
  14. ^ "Summaries of General Synod Discussions and Actions on Homosexuality and the Rights of Homosexuals". Reformed Church in America. Retrieved 21 November 2009. 
  15. ^ Position Statements/Sexuality
  16. ^ Same-Gender Attraction - LDS Newsroom
  17. ^ Homosexuality —How Can I Avoid It?
  18. ^ "ELCA Assembly Opens Ministry to Partnered Gay and Lesbian Lutherans".  
  19. ^ Kilgerman, Nicole. "Homosexuality in Islam: A Difficult Paradox". Macalester Islam Journal 2 (3): 52–64. 
  20. ^ BBC News: Iran's 'diagnosed transsexuals'
  21. ^ Smith, Peter (2002). "Homosexuality". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 184–185.  
  22. ^ "Bahá'í law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married."
    (Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual; Lights of Guidance, pp. 365, #1225) [1]
  23. ^ "...according to the Bahá'í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse."
    (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual; Lights of Guidance, pp. 364, #1220) [2]
  24. ^ "…the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a "natural" or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, however intractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question of alteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in the future clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as you rightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from homosexual acts. "Your plea for understanding and of justice extended to homosexuals is well taken in many respects, and the House of Justice assures you of its concern for the large number of persons so afflicted. Your work with the homosexual community is praiseworthy, and it permits you personally to exercise the support which is necessary for these often harassed persons, support which you call for in your essay. Moreover, your interest cannot but be therapeutic, at least for the more superficial elements of the problem; however, definitive therapy of the underlying predisposition, which you consider to be innate but the Teachings do not, may have to await additional investigations. As for the responsibility of Assemblies and of individual Bahá’ís, certainly all are called upon to be understanding, supportive and helpful to any individual who carries the burden of homosexuality."
    (Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 22 March 1987)
  25. ^ (Letter of The Universal House of Justice, 5 June 1993, Homosexuality, p. 7)
  26. ^ "They (homosexuals) should be treated just like any other people seeking admittance to the Faith, and be accepted on the same basis. Our teachings, as outlined in “The Advent of Divine Justice” on the subject of living a chaste life, should be emphasized to them just as to every other applicant, but certainly no ruling whatsoever should be laid down in this matter. The Bahá'ís have certainly not yet reached that stage of moral perfection where they are in a position to too harshly scrutinize the private lives of other souls, and each individual should be accepted on the basis of his faith, and sincere willingness to try to live up to the Divine standards"
    (Compiled by the Universal House of Justice Research Department, Homosexuality, p. 3) [3]
  27. ^ "Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex. Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with."
    (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 21 May 1954; Lights of Guidance, p. 365, #1221) [4]
  28. ^ "As for the responsibility of Assemblies and of individual Bahá’ís, certainly all are called upon to be understanding, supportive and helpful to any individual who carries the burden of homosexuality."
    (Compiled by Universal House of Justice Research Department, Homosexuality, p. 7) [5]
  29. ^ "When an individual becomes a Bahá'í, he or she accepts the claim of Bahá'u'lláh to be the Manifestation of God bringing a divinely-inspired message from God for the benefit of mankind. Implicit in the acceptance of this claim is the commitment of the believer to embark on the lifelong process of endeavouring to implement the teachings on personal conduct. Through sincere and sustained effort, energized by faith in the validity of the Divine Message, and combined with patience with oneself and the loving support of the Bahá'í community, individuals are able to effect a change in their behaviour; as a consequence of this effort they partake of spiritual benefits which liberate them and which bestow a true happiness beyond description. As you know, Bahá'u'lláh has clearly forbidden the expression of sexual love between individuals of the same sex. However, the doors are open for all of humanity to enter the Cause of God, irrespective of their present circumstance; this invitation applies to homosexuals as well as to any others who are engaged in practices contrary to the Bahá'í teachings. Associated with this invitation is the expectation that all believers will make a sincere and persistent effort to eradicate those aspects of their conduct which are not in conformity with Divine Law.
    (Compiled by Universal House of Justice Research Department, Homosexuality, p. 11) [6]
  30. ^ Gyatso, Janet (2003). One Plus One Makes Three: Buddhist Gender Conceptions and the Law of the Non-Excluded Middle, History of Religions. 2003, no. 2. University of Chicago press.
  31. ^ 'Expose the Hindu Taliban!' by Ashok Row Kavi
  32. ^ Manu Smriti, 3.49
  33. ^ Lariviere. Naradasmriti, (Part One). Philadelphia, 1989.
  34. ^ Vanita & Kidwai 2001, p. 25
  35. ^ Mahabharata, book 5, Chapter 191-5.
  36. ^ Kama Sutra, Chapter 9, "Of the Auparishtaka or Mouth Congress". Text online.
  37. ^ Pattanaik, Devdutt (2001). Homosexuality in Ancient India, Debonair 2000 or 2001. Essay available online from
  38. ^ World Sikh group against gay marriage bill, CBC News, Tuesday, 29 March 2005.
  39. ^ Martin Regg Cohn, Reject gay bill, Sikh MPs told; Warning from top religious authority says marriage backers will be shunned, Toronto Star, Toronto, March 28, 2005, p. A.1.
  40. ^ Naad, Project (2/9/2010). "Sikhism, Yoga and Sexuality". Project Naad. p. 33. Archived from the original on 2 September 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  41. ^ "Sikhism and same Sex Marriages". p. 1. Archived from the original on 3 October 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  42. ^ a b Church of Satan FAQ 10. SEXUALITY. Church of Satan Official Website. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  43. ^ "My Greatly Human Hometown Minister--James Lewis Stoll, 1936-1994", sermon by Leland Bond-Upson, delivered January 9, 2005
  44. ^ "Unitarians Endorse Homosexual Marriages", UPI, New York Times, 29 June 1984, retrieved on 21 June 2007.
  45. ^ UUA: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Community
  46. ^ Gender and Sexual Diversity
  47. ^ CUC pamphlet on their Welcoming Congregation program
  48. ^ CUC pamphlet on their Lay Chaplaincy program

External links

  • Changing Attitude (International)
  • "Religion plays an important role in the lives of gay Americans"
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