Catholic Church spending millions to oppose marriage equalityTop Highlights, Breaking News Thursday, October 18th, 2012
The Catholic Church and NOM the largest funders of discrimination
WASHINGTON – The Catholic Church is funneling unprecedented dollar amounts into the four states where marriage equality is on the ballot this fall – Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington – and in many cases, parishioners may not even be aware that their dollars are being used to fund discrimination.
A significant portion of the Catholic-affiliated funding – more than $640,000 – comes from the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization within the Church. The Knights of Columbus have an established history of using their money to fight marriage equality dating back to 2005.
Equally Blessed, a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society will release an extensive report in partnership with Human Rights Campaign (HRC) today detailing the Knights’ longstanding financial support for anti-equality measures.
According to the report, which is based primarily on the Knights’ filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the organization donated $6.25 million to anti-marriage equality efforts between 2005-2012, with most of the money directed toward ballot measures aimed at banning marriage equality in 12 states.
The sum includes:
- $1.9 million in donations to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), $1.4 million of which was devoted to a successful and highly controversial campaign to overturn marriage equality legislation in Maine.
- A $1.1 million dollar donation to ProjectMarriage.com which supported the passage of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned marriage equality in California.
- More than $630,000 in donations to groups working against marriage equality through ballot initiatives that will be voted on next month in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.
In the aggregate, the Church and NOM are the single largest funders of discrimination, responsible for funding nearly 60 percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington.
“The Knights portray themselves as representatives of a broad Catholic tradition, but they have become culture warriors,” said David Saavedra, co-president of the board of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition member. “Most U. S. Catholics support marriage equality, and even those who have doubts are put off by these hardline tactics.”
“The Catholic Church hierarchy has positioned itself as the leading religious organization funding discrimination against LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Perhaps most disturbing is the number of local parishes redirecting the hard-earned dollars of its members in the name of discrimination. The majority of Catholics support equality for LGBT people – they want their dollars funding things like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and domestic violence programs; not discrimination against people several states away. The Church hierarchy owes the laity an explanation as to why they are spending this much money on discrimination, and at what cost to other crucial Church programs.”
Since 2009, the Knights has assessed each of its 1.8 million members a $2 annual fee to support its Culture of Life initiative, which includes its campaign against marriage equality, the report notes. Many Catholics who support the Knights’ charitable initiatives in their parish or diocese are largely unaware of the organization’s involvement in “culture war” issues both inside and outside the church.
“So many of us have memories of our fathers and grandfathers putting on their Knights’ regalia to march in parades and participate in special Masses,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which is a member of the coalition. “We remember them raising scholarship money so Catholic kids could go to college. It is deeply disheartening to know that this same organization is requiring its members to contribute to campaigns aimed at making sure that some of those kids are treated as second-class citizens.”
According to the report, the Knights have accrued significant influence within the Roman Catholic Church thanks to large contributions to the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It uses that influence, the report states, to advance a conservative political and theological agenda, sometimes at the expense of other U. S. Catholics.
The anti-LGBT activity of the hierarchy stands in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics. A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, polling indicates marriage equality is one of the least important issues Catholics are currently concerned with. That same poll, from Belden Russonello, found that 83 percent of Catholics feel their bishops should not influence their vote.
“Our Catholic social teaching calls for us to work for a more loving, compassionate, and justice-oriented world for all. It does not call on us to discriminate against anyone,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, a Catholic leader with Equally Blessed and executive director of DignityUSA. “Unfortunately, the anti-LGBT activities of the Church hierarchy stand in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics.”
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