Sunday, November 15, 2009

Catholic Church in D.C. Will Pull Services over Gay Marriage

The Catholic Church isn't happy about D.C.'s same-sex marriage bill.  Ho-hum, no surprise, of course.  They've now resorted to the "I'm taking my toys and going home..." tactic:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Because outdated dogma is more important to Catholics than compassion and helping their fellow man.  The Washington Post article continues:

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

This is nonsense.  The Church can't discriminate against many other marriages it does not recognize:  people who have been divorced, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, etc.  Why has there been no outcry over any of these?  This is obviously just bully tactics from a group of religious thugs with no compassion for their fellow human beings. 

From the archdiocese's spokeswoman:

"If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

No, the city says that if we give you money for services, then you have to play by the same rules as everyone else.  The government can't give you special dispensation; there's this pesky separation of church and state stuff.

There are grumblings on the TALK section of the WP article about the passage of the bill itself being an infringement on religious freedom, according to the First Amendment.  Patrick Deneen is an associate professor of government at Georgetown, and says:

There is a basic conflict here between the claims of those seeking the legalization of gay marriage and the claims of religious liberty - not only for religious institutions per se, but individuals (such as individuals who might offer privately contracted services, such as wedding photographers, whose faith beliefs could be compromised by providing their service to a gay couple, and who would be subject to anti-discrimination lawsuits). Another area where there is a conflict is the right of religious organizations not to provide certain services or benefits, such as certain spousal employment benefits or adoption services. More broadly (going beyond the gay marriage issue), without exemptions, religious organizations can be forced to act in ways that go against their tenets, for instance, in being forced to provide contraceptive benefits in health care policies. Here the various claims run against the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. In these sorts of instances, there is a demand that religious organizations essentially act as secular organizations.

To the best of my understanding, the First Amendment does not require the government to check with every religious organization before passing any single law.  The Catholic Church is free to do as it pleases, UNLESS it wants tax money, in which case, it DOES have to act as a secular organization (see: Separation of Church and State).  As long as everyone has to follow the same set of rules, no religious group gets any advantage.  

I'm curious if there are secular or more tolerant religious groups that would be willing and able to take over the charity work that the Catholic Church.   If they can find alternatives, this could be a good thing in the long run.  I hope there are groups in the D.C. area letting their government know that there are people out there willing to pick up the slack, and will gladly extend the same benefits to same-sex couples as all others.  And the D.C. Catholic Church could be the one who loses big.

One can hope, right?


  1. Come on Jeff. You clearly havent been keeping up on your Bible verses:

    "And God did say, let no man or woman photograph homos getting married, for if they do, they surely will burn in eternal hellfire." - Peter 6:22

  2. Wow, "man or woman".. how tolerant of St. Peter