Current Research: January 2017

Christian colleges that come from more communal religious traditions are more likely to support LGBT rights and groups on campus compared to schools coming from individualistic traditions, according to a study by Monmouth College sociologist Jonathan S. Coley. In an article in the journal Social Currents (4:1, 2017), Coley analyzed a list of 682 colleges self-identifying as Christian and their policies on inclusion of LGBT people and groups and then classified them in either communal or individualist traditions. Most scholars and observers have argued that the divide between acceptance and rejection of LGBT policies and organizations runs along a conservative-liberal spectrum. Coley instead finds that colleges that belong to communal denominations, which he defines as emphasizing “social justice,” tend to have non-discrimination policies on sexual orientation, even if they teach that homosexual relations are sinful, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodists, and the historic Black churches do. He adds that it may be the case that schools associated with individualist traditions, which he defines as emphasizing “personal piety,” “are much more likely to see themselves as serving students who actively identify as Christians, and thus most have no qualms excluding students who do not actively agree with their beliefs. Christian schools associated with communal traditions, however, generally view themselves as serving broader communities,” even if they actively promote their religious identification.

(Social Currents,


Jews continue to show the highest educational attainment—or years of formal schooling—while Muslims and Hindus have the lowest, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center (December 13). While whether one lives in a developing region or country has significant impact on the educational status of religious groups, the analysis also finds that religions living in close proximity show different rates of educational attainment. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, Christians tend to have higher educational attainment than Muslims, which may be due to historical factors such as missionary activity during the colonial period. Drawing on data from 151 countries, the analysis also finds that there are different rates of educational attainment by gender within religious groups. For example, Muslim men have 6.4 years of formal schooling compared with 4.9 years among Muslim women, while Hindu women have 4.2 years of schooling while Hindu men have 6.9 years. The educational gap between Muslim men and women is narrowing across three generations, however, with women now making the greatest educational gains.

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Surveys reveal that the public in France, Italy, Belgium, and Germany significantly overestimate their countries’ Islamic populations and their growth rates, reports The Guardian (December 13). An Ipsos Mori survey that measured the gap between public perception and reality in 40 countries in 2016 found French respondents were by far the most likely to overstate their country’s current and projected Muslim population. The average French estimate was that 31 percent of the population was Muslim—almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5 percent in 2010, or one in 13 people. French respondents were also widest of the mark when it came to the projected Muslim population in 2020. The average prediction was that Muslims would make up 40 percent of the French population in four years’ time, almost five times the 8.3 percent Pew Research projection. The French were not the only ones to hold such misconceptions: Italian, German, and Belgian respondents all presumed that more than a fifth of the resident population was Muslim, while in reality the figure ranges from 3.7 percent in Italy to 7 percent in Belgium. All three countries also greatly overstated the expected proportion of Muslim residents in 2020.


France’s National Front (FN) party has been held up as an example of a far-right group moving away from strongly anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic views toward moderation, but a new survey suggests that many members of this party still hold these views. Since Marine Le Pen gained leadership in 2011, she has sought to distance the National Front from far-right views, especially on questions of anti-Semitism, race, and opposition to Muslims, dramatically illustrated when she expelled her own father and FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen from the party. The French online magazine Arts and Letters (December 22) cites the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights’ annual survey of 6,090 respondents, which rates “ethnocentric” views on a scale of 1 to 100 from 2009–2014.

In the current context of economic crisis and political disaffection, supporters of other parties, especially on the right wing, have become more anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and racist. FN supporters, however, have continued to stand out from supporters of other parties, especially in their opposition to the public expression of Islam. Negative views reached 41 points for the ritual of sheep sacrifice, 39 for prayer (understood as street prayer), and 37 for wearing the veil, compared to 30 for respecting Ramadan and food prohibitions. On the anti-Semitism scale, FN supporters’ very high level of anti-Semitic prejudices contrasted with others; more than half have high scores (above 3), compared to a quarter of supporters of other parties. The article concludes that “not only did Marine Le Pen taking up the reins of the party not lower the relative level of anti-Muslim prejudice among its supporters, but their levels of anti-Semitism increased, even though this remained much lower than their Islamophobic prejudice.”

(Books & Ideas,