The relationship between religious fundamentalism and moral development on homophobia in college undergraduates
Gould, Lera June
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Homophobia and heterosexism pervade the culture of the United States and are demonstrated by behaviors ranging from the use of pejorative terms to the serious crimes of assault, arson, and murder. The growing number of hate crimes against gay men and lesbians demonstrates the need for information on the attitudes and beliefs of heterosexuals about homosexuality. Fundamentalist religious believers have been vocal in their condemnation of homosexuality; thus, religious fundamentalism and gay rights have become political issues with proponents on both sides convinced that they are fighting for the constitutional rights of the individual. Although research has demonstrated that college students exhibit significant levels of homophobia, no studies have examined the relationship between homophobia and religious beliefs and moral development. The purpose of this study was two-fold: first, to determine if religious fundamentalism scores and moral development scores of college students were predictive of their homophobia scores; and second, to determine if a single, one hour lecture on homosexuality was significant in changing the attitudes of students who scored high in homophobia. To accomplish this, 429 participants were selected from three regional, church-affiliated universities and from a large state university. Data were collected using a demographic sheet, Herek's Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men Scale, the Copeland Fundamentalism Scale, and Rest's Defining Issues Test. Statistical analysis of the data demonstrated that homophobia and fundamentalism were correlated at a moderate level. Regression analysis showed that fundamentalism was a predictor of homophobia. A single, one-hour lecture on homosexuality was found to be significant in lowering homophobia scores. Post hoc analyses indicated a significant relationship between the demographic variables of religious denomination and religious self-description and homophobia. These data are consistent with the results of previous research. Further analyses found the sample in this study responded similarly to samples in previous research. Limitations of the study include group size and geographic location which limit generalizabiIity of the results. Although the one hour format proved significant in attitude change, suggestions for improvement are included. Further research is suggested in religiously-affiliated colleges and universities with larger student populations and other denominational affiliations and in public universities.