Do people perceive juvenile sex offenders who are gay and Christian as hypocrites? The effects of shared and dual identity defendants

Date10 October 2016
Published date10 October 2016
AuthorRachel Altholz,Jessica Salerno
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
Do people perceive juvenile
sex offenders who are gay and Christian
as hypocrites? The effects of shared and
dual identity defendants
Rachel Altholz and Jessica Salerno
Rachel Altholz is a Graduate
Student at the Department of
Social and Behavioral
Sciences, Arizona State
University, Phoenix,
Arizona, USA.
Jessica Salerno is an Assistant
Professor at the Arizona State
University, Phoenix,
Arizona, USA.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a criminal offenders dual social identity affects
judgments. Drawing from similarity-leniency and black sheep theories, the authors tested and discuss
whether these effects could be explained by legal decision makersperceptions of hypocrisy or shared
identity with the defendant.
Design/methodology/approach The authors recruited 256 Christian and non-Christian adults to read a
vignette about a juvenile sex offender who was either Christian or non-Christian, and heterosexual or gay. The
authors measured participantspunitiveness toward the offender.
Findings Results revealed that legal decision makers were more punitive when they were Christian
compared to non-Christian, and the defendant was gay compared to heterosexual. Further, legal decision
makers perceived themselves as more similar to the defendant when they were non-Christian compared to
Christian, and the defendant was heterosexual compared to gay. Finally, only when the defendant was
Christian, legal decision makers perceived him as more hypocritical when he was gay compared to
Originality/value This is the first study to investigate whether gay defendants might be particularly
discriminated against if they are also Christian. It is also the first to test the black sheep and similarity-leniency
theories in the legal context of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Christian defendants.
Keywords Discrimination, Religion, Sexual orientation, Punishment, Dual identity, Legal judgments
Paper type Research paper
In juvenile sex offender cases judges or juries make decisions that could change a young life
forever. Many extralegal factors, such as the social identities of the legal decision maker and
defendant,can affect these judgments.For example, if the legal decisionmaker is Christian and the
defendantis also Christian, this shared identitymight affect the legal decisionmakerspunitiveness.
We tested competing hypotheses about the direction of this shared identity effect based on the
black sheep effect and similarity-leniency hypothesis. The black sheep effect would predict that
Christian jurors might judge a Christiandefendant more severely than a non-Christian defendant,
because the Christiandefendants behaviorsviolate ingroup norms and make Christians look bad.
In contrast, the similarity-leniencyeffect would predict that Christian jurors might judgea Christian
defendant less severely than a non-Christian defendant because people perceive their ingroup
more positively. Further, we investigate whether Christians would be even more punitive when a
Christian defendant is also gay and therefore also belongs to a group that, by definition, violates
Christian values. We tested whether this contradictory dual identity (being Christian and gay)
Received 14 August 2015
Revised 1 October 2015
Accepted 28 October 2015
VOL. 8 NO. 4 2016, pp.226-237, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/JACPR-08-2015-0182

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT