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The Assault

In Church and State on November 20, 2009 at 6:24 am

The title of this piece sounds exactly like something an angry homophobic religious conservative would write after hearing the news that a religious organization called Catholic Charities is currently at odds with a proposal for gay-marriage legislation in Washington D.C. However, let me be clear about something. I am not a religious zealot nor am I homophobic. I am however, a bit angry. Not at gays, or liberals or Christian conservatives, but rather I am angry at those who have been able to pit our communities against one another and continually strive to fuel those flames. I chose the title because we are all under assault. The D.C. story is just a small example of a greater incursion.

A closer look at the facts may clarify my position.

There is a bill under consideration by the Washington D.C. district council that would legalize same sex marriage in the D.C. area. Under the guise of equality, the legislation would force religious organizations to offer their social services to the gay community with the exception of marriage ceremonies, counseling services and retreats. Catholic Charities currently provide a range of services that reach more than 60,000 people in their capital city. Such programs include efforts like adoption & foster-care services, health care provisions, and vocational training. Catholic Charities insist that the exemption status provided by the bill is far too narrow and that forcing them to extend social services, like adoption, to the gay community will not allow them to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their doctrine. As such, Catholic Charities have stated that if the bill goes through, they will have to cancel their government contract and discontinue the social services they provide to the city. The ensuing tumult in the media has predictably painted the church as governed by heartless bigotry that would rather abandon the needy than support gay couples. Initially, I bought into that assessment because this protestant conservative happens to have close personal gay friends. However, I discovered upon further reading that Catholic Charities have been strategically put into a Sophie’s Choice position where, based on government legality, they must choose between two tenets they hold dear: the sanctity of marriage and ministry to the poor. To some, it would seem to be an easy solution: uphold social provisions over sentimental semantics. But my point is this… it’s not for people outside of Catholicism to decide which services they should or should not provide. It’s an argument that should take place between fellow Catholics and should not be mandated from any other front, especially from the seat of government.

My conservatism stems from a solid belief in the core principles that compose the structure of our country. Freedom of religion is one of those girders. That freedom, like it or not, allows the religious community to make distinctions about right and wrong as it pertains to the doctrine of their faith. As long as those distinctions are not imposed upon society in a way that threatens the general population, the religious community has liberty to determine their own course of faith-expression. The same-sex marriage legislation, as it currently stands, will place impediments upon that expression thus undermining this constitutionally protected freedom. As such, all of us, including the gay community, should support a broader exemption for Catholic Charities. After all, if political power can be used to undermine one part of the first amendment, then what’s to stop that power from collapsing all of it?

Now I know there will be those who read this and think that equality is king and that government is the strong arm to enforce it. However, if this is true and non-discrimination is at the heart of this particular piece of gay-marriage legislation, then why allow for any religious exemptions to begin with? Perhaps it’s because those exemptions are just weak displays of first amendment security that are actually not strong enough to be enforced but regardless, the fact that they exist undermine a claim for equality. And if discrimination as a general concept is intolerably wrong, then why not come down on other non-profits who operate with selective services? I mean, the American Association of Retired People limit their services to those over the age of 50. So what about retired folks who are struggling at the age of 49? Then there’s the Humane Society. They have a strict selection process in place to determine who is eligible for adopting one of their animals. That sounds like blatant discrimination to me. Why isn’t the hammer of equality coming down on them? Who is the Humane Society to decide whether or not my home is an acceptable environment for raising an animal? I’m sort of being somewhat facetious with these examples but you get my point. Any organization with a mission statement must utilize some form of discrimination to define whom they will or will not serve. But here’s the great thing about our country and what makes it so frigging awesome to live here: If you find that something in society is missing, you have the freedom to bring it into existence! Therefore, if the gay community truly wants access to things like marital services or adoption processes, they have the freedom to use all of their political clout, funding power and activist energy to create charities specifically suited to service their needs as a community. I bet they could even find people within the Catholic congregation to help them do it.

As I write this, these suggestions are so glaringly obvious that again, I come back to the title of this piece. If this legislation is not truly about establishing equality, then what else can it be about other than an excuse for government officials to create legal inroads aimed at controlling religious freedom? Notice I made no mention of homosexuals. This is not a gay agenda. This is just another example of government manipulation. And by government, I don’t mean liberals exclusively. Republicans have had their mitts on the religious community for political advancement long before Obama stepped into the picture. When are the citizens of this country going to stop looking solely at the superficial labels our politicians throw around to distract us and start analyzing the actions they take in light of the constitution we’ve been given? The constitution was created to empower us, not them. As government power increases, individual liberties decrease and that includes everyone.

Right now, without greater legal exemption, Catholic Charities stand at a cross roads of impossibility. Either they undermine their own doctrine regarding marriage in order to provide for the homeless or they abandon their mission to the poor in order to uphold their structure of belief. Being in this position, either way they lose and if they lose… we all do.

  1. Cara,
    BLUF ( bottom line up front): any organization can come up with ANYTHING in order to do whatever they want to.
    This is ESPECIALLY true re:the RCC. It’s an ability that they have demonstrated time and time again. As a staunch believer in non verbal communication, the message is quite clear to me. All this wailing, lamenting, and knashing of teeth by the RCC over this issue….and not a single effort to figure HOW to make it work. The values exhibited are clear, and those values do NOT include the values mouthed by God, or Jesus, or Allah, or the head of ANY major religion.
    That’s the problem.
    Gotta run ;(
    More later.

  2. Government gets to define equality, sorry that is the fact. The church can provide services aligned with the law, or quit providing those services. Their reason for quitting is hate.
    Jesus was not a quitter or a hater.

  3. “Catholic Charities insist that the exemption status provided by the bill is far too narrow and that forcing them to extend social services, like adoption, to the gay community will not allow them to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their doctrine.”

    As a former Catholic Charities employee, I can assure you that they are full of sh!t.

    The exemption is not too narrow (please find me the specific part of the legislation–which they clearly admit ALLOWS A CONTINUED EXEMPTION STATUS FERFREAKSSAKE–that they consider too narrow) nor has it ever been. As I mentioned in my response to Kim’s post, Catholic Charities currently has the legal right to call themselves and EEO employer while actively discriminating against classes protected under EEO status. They have protections that they shouldn’t have in place, and this is no exception. They know this and are pulling a political card in a most offensive, dishonest, manipulative and down-right revolting manner. They are a protected class battling a new piece of legislation that continues that protected class, essentially allowing them to continue to break the law, and are blatantly lying about that reality in an effort to change the law and manipulate taxpayers.

    The government absolutely has the right–as does ANY donor to a non-profit organization–to restrict the funding they provide. Any organization that wants government funds has to follow the law. That means that a church that wants to provide services to everyone but but Latinos and Blacks can’t have government funds. If you want government money, you must follow the law. If you want my money, you have to direct it where I tell you to direct it. That’s the nature of funding within the non-profit sector. Don’t want to follow the law or do as you’re told by a donor? Don’t take the money.

    I understand the inclination to want the government to stay out of private affairs, but whether you want to admit it or not, this is a human rights issue. One that the freaking RCC will not even have to follow, thanks to their protected status. But when it comes to government involvement and human rights, tell me, what would this nation look like if Lincoln and Johnson didn’t make the government intervene?

    Because believe me, there was plenty of religious opposition, with ample biblical evidence, supporting slavery and later segregation. The bible has long been used as a tool to beat the oppressed. Thankfully, other faithful voices have always come forward in favor of human rights. I can only hope, as you mentioned in your call for this to be a Catholic discussion, that this act by Catholic Charities causes progressive Catholics to come forward and demand further change

  4. “Jesus was not a quitter or a hater.”

    Kenny, I want that on a t-shirt!

    • Thank you CF, it is yours, make a t-shirt, spread the word.

      As an HR pro, I love your EEO angles. I love this part too, “Because believe me, there was plenty of religious opposition, with ample biblical evidence, supporting slavery and later segregation.”

      Thanks to Kim and Cara for such a stellar blog, what a brilliant idea!

  5. I do ❤ this blog, even if I am writing novels o' protest all over it. ha!

  6. I don’t think the gov’t is acting under the “guise” of equality. I think they are acting on the principle of equality. Homosexuality is not a Catholic-church-specific issue. It’s an issue all Americans are wrestling with and voting on, and the gov’t in DC is making a decision that sexual orientation is in the same class as gender and race if you are going to take government funds. The Catholic Church can still use its money for social services and not help gays. But if the gov’t wants to contract to groups that will accept their provision of equal services, that is not only their right, it’s their job, since they have made a legislative decision about gay rights.

    Equating discrimination against gays to the AARP and to the Humane Society discriminating against bad pet owners is not a sound argument. You can gather together with people of similar interests in the USA – but if you want to take government funds it’s a different matter.

    You need more compelling evidence if you are going to make the extremely enormous claim that the gov’t wants to control religious freedom. That’s a really divisive thing to say, too.

  7. Cara,
    Here ya go.
    Still don’t understand why the RCC simply can’t improvise, adapt, and adjust.
    This is proof positive they are MORE than willing to do so when it suits them to do so:

  8. When I write about a topic, I try to look beyond the standard complaints perceived by both sides in an effort to plant a fresh perspective that holds true to my conservative roots while at the same time, offers a branch of liberality. This effort is always my aim tho’ I may not be a skilled archer. Having said that, I’ll let this fact speak for itself rather than offer up counter-points to the comments left behind. Just so you know, in general, I’m more interested in sharing than arguing… more interested in understanding than trying to win. Much appreciation to those of you who echo that approach.

  9. Cara, that sounds mildly passive-aggressive and borders on ad hominem (we’re talking about issues here, not intent. So, why not focus on the issues other than a perception of the commenter’s intent?). Unless I’m misinterpreting what you’re trying to express in your last comment…??

    When people’s civil rights are at stake, desperately needed social services are in jeopardy of being removed, and powerful organizations are blatantly lying and manipulating (around public funds, no less), “sharing” or “being right” isn’t really relevant. What is relevant is ensuring that people’s civil rights remain intact, social services continue, and organizations are held accountable.

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