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Study shows pro-LGBT religious voices underrepresented in national media

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GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today released ‘Missing Voices: A study of religious voices in mainstream media reports about LGBT equality’ in partnership with the University of Missouri Center on Religion & the Professions. The study analyzes messages presented in national news outlets by religious voices about issues affecting the LGBT communities.

The research, a three year study of 316 news stories about LGBT issues, using 1,387 different religious sources on national television and print news media, shows a disproportionate reliance on anti-LGBT religious voices commenting on LGBT people and issues, according to a press release. Three out of four religious messages came from people whose religions have formal policies opposing LGBT equality, despite the fact that acceptance of LGBT people is growing across faith traditions.

“Today’s media has a responsibility to reflect the diversity of religious voices, rather than just those who choose not to support LGBT people,” said Ross Murray, director of the Religion, Faith & Values Program at GLAAD. “By elevating select anti-LGBT voices who are out of touch with so many in their own churches, media is falsely representing views of entire religious groups and contributing to a climate that isolates LGBT youth and adults from their faith, a false dichotomy that no one should have to make.”

Among the findings:

• Whenever LGBT issues are discussed by religious voices in national media, outlets disproportionally quote or interview Evangelical Christian individuals (34 percent) and organizations (50 percent) and the messages from those sources were overwhelmingly negative (76 percent).
• Evangelical Christians account for almost 40 percent of all the negative statements about LGBT issues made by religiously identified spokespeople.
• Roman Catholic spokespeople account for another 12 percent of all negative statements about LGBT issues made by religiously identified spokespeople.
• Over half of Catholics consulted presented negative messages about LGBT issues, which is significantly inconsistent with the majority of Catholics who support LGBT people. (see below).
• Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholic spokespeople are consulted at rates higher than their proportion of the population (Evangelical 34 percent versus 26 percent; Roman Catholic 29 percent versus 24 percent). Mainline Protestants (Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) and self-identified Humanist, atheist, and agnostic spokespeople are consulted at rates lower than their percentage of the United States population.
• The mainstream media used far fewer religious sources from Mainline Protestant (17 percent), Jewish (5 percent), or other religious sources whose messages were predominantly positive.
• Pro-LGBT or LGBT-identified sources are predominantly presented without any religious affiliation, thus contributing to a false and overly sensational ‘religion vs. gay’ frame.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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