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Nonreligious LGBTQ Americans Face Heightened Stigma, Especially in Very Religious Areas

Washington, D.C.—Today, the civil rights organization American Atheists released a data report entitled Nonreligious LGBTQ People in America. Counting 7,759 nonreligious LGBTQ participants (22.9% of the nearly 34,000-person total sample) and organized by a team of researchers at Strength in Numbers Consulting Group, this is the largest study of nonreligious LGBTQ Americans.

In comparison to cisgender, heterosexual nonbelievers, LGBTQ participants faced significantly more stigma and discrimination, researchers found. American Atheists warns that, given the make-up of this Supreme Court and the religiously motivated bias of prominent lawmakers, such stigma and discrimination are likely to increase.

“LGBTQ atheists face widespread stigma and discrimination,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy, who spearheaded this data collection project. “With half of LGBTQ people being nonreligious, we often experience both religious oppression and anti-LGBTQ bigotry.”

A larger percentage of LGBTQ nonreligious participants faced stigma and discrimination in various areas of their lives than did their cisgender, heterosexual peers, including in the military (54.1% vs. 44.9%), education (33.2% vs. 28.1%), and employment (23.6% vs. 21.0%). This disparity was especially pronounced in areas like mental health services (23.4% vs. 15.4%), reproductive care (20.8% vs. 12.0%), and substance abuse services (20.1% vs. 13.7%). In addition, researchers found that more than one quarter (27.9%) of LGBTQ participants screened positive for depression. This is twice the rate of cisgender, heterosexual participants (13.8%).

“LGBTQ atheists and agnostics already experienced heightened stigma because of their nonreligious beliefs. But this data was captured before the rampant political attacks targeting LGBTQ young people and their families over the last two years and the extreme Supreme Court decisions that have opened the door for public school staff to preach anti-LGBTQ theology,” said Gill. “We would expect that many members of our community—especially students in very religious areas—may feel even more stigma today.”

Nearly half (46.5%) of LGBTQ participants living in very religious communities encountered negative experiences or discrimination in education settings due to their nonreligious beliefs, which is twice the rate of those in less religious communities (26.6%). Trans and gender nonconforming youth ages 18-24 were significantly more likely to encounter discrimination in education because of their nonreligious beliefs than their cisgender, heterosexual peers (38.9% vs. 28.1%).

“Keeping public schools safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ nonreligious students is vital,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “It is no wonder that Christian extremists are targeting schools: it’s where they’re most able to harm LGBTQ nonreligious students. It’s reprehensible and wrong.”

View the full report at