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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

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.