When and Why Is Religious Attendance Associated With Antigay Bias and Gay Rights Opposition? A Justification-Suppression Model Approach

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Even in relatively tolerant countries, antigay 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 antigay bias in tolerant countries, yet be “released” by religious justifications among those who resist gay rights progress. Across large, nationally representative US samples (Study 1) and international samples (Study 2, representing a total of 97 different countries), over 215,000 participants, and various indicators of antigay bias (e.g., dislike, moral condemnation, opposing gay rights), individual differences in religious attendance was uniquely associated with greater antigay bias, over and above religious fundamentalism, political ideology, and religious denomination. Moreover, in 4 of 6 multilevel models, religious attendance was associated with antigay bias in countries with greater gay rights recognition, but was unrelated to antigay bias in countries with lower gay rights recognition (Study 2). In Study 3, Google searches for a religious justification (“love the sinner hate the sin”) coincided temporally with gay-rights relevant searches. In U.S. (Study 4) and Canadian (Study 5) samples, much of the association between religious attendance and antigay bias was explained by “sinner–sin” religious justification, with religious attendance not associated with antigay bias when respondents reported relatively low familiarity with this justification (Study 5). These findings suggest that social divisions on homosexuality in relatively tolerant social contexts may be in large part due to religious justifications for antigay bias (consistent with the JSM), with important implications for decreasing bias.

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