Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2020) 59(2):379–396


Copyright © 2020 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Used by permission.


Highly religious Americans are relatively likely to oppose lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) rights and many churches are unwelcoming to sexual minorities, which may lead LGB Americans to retreat from religion. To assess this possibility, we investigate trajectories of religious change for sexual minorities and other emerging adults. We use two longitudinal data sources (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and the National Study of Youth and Religion) to explore how sexuality predicts the likelihood of decreasing religiosity in emerging adulthood. Results show that three different operationalizations of sexual minority status—attraction, behavior, and identity—are each strongly and consistently associated with disaffiliating from religion and declines in religious service attendance. On the other hand, sexual minority status has inconsistent and relatively small associations with changes in prayer. We conclude by discussing how these results further understanding of religion, sexual identity, and the current generation of emerging adults.