Ministers have been accused of overturning the nation’s morality in a searing attack on new gay rights laws by a leading Roman Catholic churchman.
Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols threatened to withdraw Catholic co-operation with the Government over schools, charity programmes and adoption agencies if the new sexual orientation regulations go ahead.
Maybe Archbishop Nichols needs a reality check. “The nation” is generally more tolerant and enlightened than him, especially young people. The National Centre for Social Research’s 2002 British Social Attitudes survey included questions on racial prejudice and prejudice towards homosexuals. NatCen published these results:
There has been a dramatic change in attitudes towards homosexuality. In 1985, 70% of people though it was “always” or “mostly” wrong. Now under half (47%) think this, while a third (33%) says it is “not wrong at all”.
A quarter of people (25%) in Britain describe themselves as “very” or “a little” prejudiced against people of other races, down from a third (34%) in 1985.
Britain is likely to become increasingly tolerant over time:
• Older, less tolerant, generations will die out and be replaced by more tolerant ones.
• One of the less obvious pay-offs from higher education seems to be more liberal views on these issues. So tolerance should increase as the numbers of people entering higher education grows.
Prejudice varies dramatically, particularly by age and education:
• Racial prejudice. Just over a fifth (22%) of the under 30s are prejudiced, compared with almost a third (32%) of the 60 plus group. And around a fifth (19%) of graduates are prejudiced, compared with more than a quarter (29%) of those with no qualifications at all.
• Homosexuality. Almost a quarter (23%) of the under 30s think homosexuality is “always wrong”, compared with almost two-thirds (60%) of the 60 plus group. Fewer than one in five (17%) of graduates think homosexuality is “always wrong”, compared with more than half (54%) of people with no qualifications.
On both matters, young people’s tolerance is likely to stay with them as they get older so they won’t become more prejudiced with age.
Gives you a reason to feel optimistic, doesn’t it?
Visit the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association‘s website for a Humanist perspective.