Anti-LGBT Religious Right figures such as Rick Santorum and Tony Perkins have made their voices heard in the news media, as we've all observed. But just how prevalent are anti-LGBT religious voices in the media, and how representative are they of the religious community at large? A new report sheds light on the matter.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Center on Religion & the Professions just released a new report entitled Missing Voices: A Study of Religious Voices in Mainstream Media Reports About LGBT Equality.
The report discusses ways in which the American news media depicts religious voices in its coverage of LGBT issues. During a time in which both religion and LGBT equality have become important issues in the public square, this report couldn't be more timely.
The study examined LGBT-related content from 15 mainstream news outlets and broadcast programs from January 2009 to July 2011. The most commonly cited sources in LGBT-related news content were politicians or government officials (28%), community members (22%), activists and advocates (21%), and religious spokespersons (9%). Of the organizations coded for religious affiliation, over 50% were evangelical Christian groups.
Of the messages conveyed by those cited in news stories, 50% were positive toward LGBTs, roughly 32% were neutral, and roughly 19% were negative. However, religious spokespeople were more likely to provide negative messages than the general sample. Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestants were more likely to share negative messages, but mainline Christians and black Protestants were more likely to share positive messages.
The report observes that the media often depicts religion and LGBT issues as opposed to each other (the "gays versus religion" frame). When media outlets use religious sources in news stories on LGBT issues, they are likely to cite conservative Christian sources who view LGBT rights negatively. On the other hand, pro-LGBT sources cited in news stories are frequently presented without any notation of their religious affiliation. The news stories studied in this sample did not consistently cite progressive, pro-LGBT religious voices. The report concludes that such imbalances in media ignore religious pluralism in the U.S. and obscure the presence of pro-LGBT religious voices.
The authorship speculates that religious illiteracy may play a role in this imbalance. The report notes that even journalists can suffer from religious illiteracy -- a lack of knowledge about religion, even the religion one espouses -- which in turn can contribute to polarized media depictions of religion and LGBT issues.
Missing Voices serves as a reminder that the relationship between religion and LGBT issues is more complex than it appears in the media. While anti-LGBT religious voices figure prominently in the news, they have a disproportionate presence. We must remember that religious figures do not speak in one voice on LGBT issues, and a growing number of religious leaders and organizations support the LGBT community. Furthermore, LGBT Christians are living reminders that religion and LGBT status need not be diametrically opposed. In short, GLAAD's latest report serves as a reminder that balanced coverage of these issues in the news is vital.
For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
Huffington Post: Where Are the Pro-LGBT Religious Voices in Mainstream Media?
Instinct: Pro-LGBT Religious Voices Underrepresented In The Media, Finds New GLAAD Study