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Two-thirds of Catholics Oppose Refusing Service to LGBT People on Religious Grounds
09.16.2015

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who claims that her religious beliefs exempt her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, continues to put the issue of religious liberty in the headlines. And with Pope Francis scheduled to speak on religious freedom in Philadelphia next weekend, the issue will likely remain hotly debated. Our latest PRRI/RNS survey sheds some light on what American Catholics believe about religious liberty and providing services to gay and lesbian people.

09-16-15 Religious Exemptions Catholics Chart copy

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Catholics oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while 28 percent favor such a policy. While there are some variations on this question by political affiliation, racial and ethnicity, and frequency of church attendance, there are no subgroups of Catholics in which a majority favor allowing business owners to refuse service to LGBT people because of their religious beliefs.

There are stark differences among Catholics by political affiliation. While seven in ten Democratic Catholics (70 percent) and independent Catholics (70 percent) oppose religious-based service refusals of gay and lesbian people, Republican Catholics are more divided. Slightly more than half (51 percent) of Republican Catholics oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, while 46 percent say they should be allowed.

There are also racial and ethnic divisions among Catholics in their approach to the issue. Non-white Catholics—most of whom identify as Hispanic—are more likely than white Catholics to oppose allowing small business owners to refuse services to gay or lesbian people for religious reasons (72 percent vs. 61 percent, respectively).

And Catholics who attend religious services weekly or more (58 percent) are less likely to express opposition than those who attend less often (69 percent).

For more on American Catholics, Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church, click here.