Christians demonizing Islam over gay rights doth protest too much

White evangelicals remain the most anti-gay group in the country.

A special prayer service held at the American Muslim Community Center the Monday after the Pulse nightclub shooting. CREDIT: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
A special prayer service held at the American Muslim Community Center the Monday after the Pulse nightclub shooting. CREDIT: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, then-candidate Donald Trump claimed to be LGBTQ-friendly, capitalizing on the false belief that the best way to show support to the queer community was to be Islamophobic. As conservative Christians have repeated incessantly over the past year or so, their desire to allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination (in the name of “religious liberty”) is nothing compared to the way Muslims supposedly want to throw gay people off buildings.

But recent polling indicates that this simply isn’t true. Over the last 10 years, acceptance of homosexuality has surged among U.S. Muslims, leaving white evangelicals in the dust.

In 2017, 52 percent —a majority — of U.S. Muslims believe that society should be accepting of homosexuality, compared to just 34 percent of white evangelicals. Indeed, white evangelicals overall were less tolerant of homosexuality than any subgroup of Muslims that would be expected to be more conservative, including men (42 percent), those who are older (42 percent), those were born outside the United States (49 percent), and those who say their religion is very important to them (47 percent).

Though support has grown at high rates in both groups over the last 10 years, it has grown far faster among Muslims. Indeed, white evangelicals remain the U.S. religious group least supportive of the gay community, as captured by the Pew study.

So although Christian conservatives claim — as they regularly do — that it’s contradictory to support inclusion of both Muslim and queer people, it’s now clear that they’re not just demonizing Islam — they’re factually wrong. At the same time, they’re also completely erasing the massive community of queer Muslims.

The poll also shines a light on homonationalism, the phenomenon in which queer people themselves embrace nationalism and Islamophobia. Individuals like Milo Yiannopoulos or Chris Barron of “LGBT for Trump” try to use their queer identities to justify their prejudice against Islam. For example, Barron’s response to Trump’s ban on transgender military service ignored the substance entirely to instead defend Trump because he fights “radical Islam.”

These findings seem to reflect the way that white evangelicals have turned LGBTQ issues into a litmus test for “true Christianity.” Those who express support for issues like marriage equality and transgender rights are increasingly ostracized by evangelical communities, which helps keep their rejection of LGBTQ rights pure.