New Research Demonstrates Link between Support for Christian Privileges and Opposition to Sexual and Gender Minority Rights

The results add complexity to the association between religious conservativism and support for rights and protections


Professor Nathan Todd who co-wrote the new research

New research by UIUC Community Psychology professor Nathan Todd examines how awareness of Christian privileges and support for Christian dominance in the United States relates to opposition for rights for sexual and gender minorities (SGM). In the United States Christian dominance is the idea that Christian morals and values should be the norm in society and that positions of power should be predominantly occupied by Christians. The researchers found that regardless of whether individuals identified as nonreligious or Christian, levels of support for dominance of Christian values, and to a lesser extent, lack of awareness of the privilege that dominance confers, predicted less willingness to support SGM rights. 

Previous work had shown links between levels of religious and political conservatism, religious attendance, and beliefs about the cause of sexual orientation as important predictors for levels of support for SGM rights. To add to this knowledge, Dr. Todd and colleagues examined how systems of Christian power and privilege in the United States may also serve to reinforce opposition to rights and protections for SGM individuals.

In order to quantify support for systems of Christian-centered social structures that impact everyone, the researchers assessed how much individuals support social, political, and economic dominance of Christians. Since many Christians are unaware of the unearned advantages conferred by identification with the dominant religious group, the researchers also measured levels of awareness of these privileges.

The team surveyed over 1000 heterosexual, cisgender college students identifying as either Christian or nonreligious. Students were asked about their level support for Christian dominance, awareness of Christian privilege, and opposition to SGM rights. They found that for Christian students, religious and political conservativism had indirect effects in predicting opposition to SGM rights and this was through levels of support for Christian dominance. Lack of awareness of privilege also was related to opposition to SGM rights but did not exhibit as strong an association.

Results were similar for both the Christian and nonreligious students, although for nonreligious students the predictions did not included religious conservativism. The fact that patterns were similar across religious and nonreligious individuals indicate that support for systems that reinforce social power for the dominant group is not limited to the dominant group, and that even among the nonreligious greater support for Christian dominance was associated with opposition to SGM rights.

In contrast to much prior work, the research specifically examined opposition to SGM rights in the context of systems of power and privilege. The authors note that such work can be used to distinguish privileges that serve to confer dominance and power from those that could be considered basic human rights (e.x. privilege to not face religious discrimination). Research into how these social structures shape beliefs could also be used to both inform action and shape interventions to increase the well-being of marginalized communities.



You can read more about this work on the Illinois News Bureau.

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