Lincoln, NE – State Senator Lowen Kruse introduced a bill that sought to curb underage drinking. In addition to banning minors from consuming alcohol in their own homes, the proposed legislation extended to places of worship during religious rites.
In response to protests from religious leaders of various faiths, Kruse claimed that it was unlikely that authorities would enforce the ban on wine used in Communion services. We weren’t convinced and demanded that the bill be changed at once, pointing out that even under Prohibition there was a religious exemption for wine.
Senator Kruse proposed a compromise that would allow up to a half an ounce of alcohol in a religious ceremony. We rejected this offer, maintaining it was not the business of government to be measuring wine at Catholic Masses.
After debating Bill Donohue on a radio show, Senator Kruse modified his bill so as not to burden religious liberty.
Louisville, KY – Federal judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that a sex-abuse lawsuit against the Vatican could go forward. The lawyer who sought to sue the Vatican, William McMurry, won a $25.7 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003, taking $10.3 million for himself and his legal team. One of McMurry’s three clients in the suit against the Vatican said he “thought” the local bishop was following Vatican orders in dealing with his three-decades-old abuse case. Another says a priest touched him through his pants pocket in 1928, and the third client’s alleged abuser died in 1983.
McMurry’s action against the Vatican was spurred by a 1962 document, leaked to the press, which was falsely reported to have implicated Rome in a cover-up of sexual abuse. In fact, the document proscribed penalties for priests who made sexual advances in the confessional, as well as penalties for penitents who did not report such misconduct. In other words, the document shows how seriously the Vatican took the issue of sex abuse.
On February 6, we demanded that presidential hopeful John Edwards fire two recently hired anti-Catholics who had joined his team: Amanda Marcotte as Blogmaster and Melissa McEwan as the Netroots Coordinator. He chose to fire them, and then rehire them. After we exposed another anti-Christian screed by Marcotte—written only three days after Edwards had assured everyone that this would not happen again—she was forced to quit. She blamed Bill Donohue as she waltzed out the door. The next day, McEwan also resigned.
Writing on the Pandagon blogsite on December 26, 2006, Amanda Marcotte wrote that “the Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics.”
On October 9, 2006, she said, “the Pope’s gotta tell women who give birth to stillborns that their babies are cast into Satan’s maw.” On the same day she wrote that “it’s going to be bad PR for the church, so you can sort of see why the Pope is dragging ass.” And on June 14, 2006, Marcotte offered the following Q&A: “What if Mary had taken Plan B after
On November 21, 2006, Melissa McEwan wrote on the website AlterNet that “some of Christianity’s most prominent leaders—including the Pope—regularly speak out against gay tolerance.” On November 1, 2006, on her blog Shakespeare’s Sister, she referred to President Bush’s “wingnut Christofascist base” when lashing out against religious conservatives.
On February 21, 2006, she attacked religious conservatives again, this time saying, “What don’t you lousy [expletive] understand about keeping your noses out of our britches, our beds, and our families?” An entry under “Greatest Hits” on her website (where she brags about being appointed to Edwards’ campaign) is titled something so filthy we cannot in good conscience reprint it here.
Our initial news release was easy on Edwards: “John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots. He has no choice but to fire them immediately.”
On February 16, 2007, the Catholic League was to run an ad on the op-ed page of the New York Times calling for the removal of these two bigots from the Edwards campaign. The ad was to run the exact words of the two women. The Times declared the verbiage as too offensive, so the Catholic League planned to run the ad with the quotes deleted and in the empty space informing readers to find the quotes on the league’s website. The Times later changed their position and allowed the quotes to be in the ad. The league pulled the ad before it ran because both Marcotte and McEwan quit the Edwards campaign.
The ad above was to run on February 16 on the op-ed page of the New York Times. But since Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan quit the Edwards campaign just as the ad was about to run, we pulled it.
Washington, DC – The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center was ordered to reinstate a Catholic chaplain after it was found he had been fired due to anti-Catholic bias. Fr. Henry Heffernan had objected to “multi-faith chaplaincy,” in which chaplains at the center would minister to patients who were not of the same faith. Fr. Heffernan believed that he would be compromising his faith by going along with this type of chaplaincy for the center’s Catholic patients. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also found that the center’s supervising chaplain, a Methodist minister, had exhibited animosity toward Catholics on several occasions.
Hartford, CT – State Representative Deborah Heinrich urged lawmakers to require all Connecticut hospitals, including Catholic ones, to offer Plan B emergency contraception to rape victims despite the fact that this would violate the doctrinal prerogatives of the Catholic Church. We noted that doctors at Catholic hospitals provide rape victims with a list of facilities where Plan B is available, as well as free transportation to them. The league wrote to all members of the state legislature’s Human Services Committee, urging them not to jeopardize the religious-liberty prerogatives of Catholic hospitals.
Hartford, CT – Brian Brown, executive director of the Connecticut Family Institute, testified on same-sex marriage before the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Two committee members, Representative Michael Lawlor and Senator Edwin Gomes, asked Brown a series of personal and intrusive questions regarding his Catholic faith. Lawlor asked Brown if “people who love people of the same sex are intrinsically evil” (which the Church does not teach) and Gomes told Brown, “When I was a kid, they scared us with Heaven and Hell and all that. I thought you were going to say I was going to Hell if I cast my vote” in favor of gay marriage.
Sacramento, CA – State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Catholic, called Roger Cardinal Mahony’s remarks “extreme and dogmatic” after the cardinal expressed disappointment in him for supporting a bill to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Another legislator responding to Mahony’s comments, Assemblywoman Patty Berg, said, “Why aren’t they taking care of their own shop?” We objected to the attempts of both lawmakers to silence Cardinal Mahony regarding public issues.
San Francisco, CA – Wesley J. Smith, an international expert on bioethics, called California’s proposed doctor-assisted suicide legislation “strongly and implicitly anti-Catholic” and urged defeat of the bill. The bill would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to people with terminal illnesses who have less than six months to live. Smith said the bill was “trying to bend the Catholic Church’s moral teaching to the will of the culture of death agenda.”
Senator Patrick Leahy, when asked about the pope’s comments regarding possible excommunication of Catholic pro-abortion politicians, said, “I’ve always thought also that those bishops and archbishops who for decades hid pederasts and are now being protected by the Vatican should be indicted.”
Washington, DC – Eighteen Catholic members of the U.S. House of Representatives—all of them Democrats—signed a statement chiding Pope Benedict XVI for reaffirming that Catholic lawmakers who vote for legalized abortion should not receive Communion. “The fact is that religious sanction in the political arena,” the statement read, “directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America—it also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.”
The statement smacked of a government edict dictating to the Church who should and should not receive Communion.
San Francisco, CA – The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals forwarded for review a complaint of judicial misconduct by the Catholic League against Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. The judge had issued a sneering response in ruling against the Catholic League in a First Amendment lawsuit filed against the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The Thomas More Law Center, representing the Catholic League, sued the board over its resolution condemning Catholic teaching on homosexuality as “hateful” and “callous.” In ruling against the league, Patel stated, “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provoked the debate, indeed may have invited entanglement by its [doctrinal] statement.”
When a Thomas More attorney informed the judge that the Church doesn’t have the power of law and can’t tax, she replied, “You’re saying the power to condemn someone to Hell isn’t more important to some people than being condemned by the state to have to pay a fine or go to jail?”
It wasn’t the judge’s ruling that concerned the league; rather it was her comments indicating an abiding hostility toward the Catholic faith.
Dover, DE – The state House passed a bill that eliminates the two-year statute of limitations in cases involving the sexual molestation of minors. The bill applied only to private institutions such as the Catholic Church. It did not apply equally to the public sector; under a legal concept known as sovereign immunity, public schools and other government entities can claim exemption from the elimination of statutes of limitations in sex abuse cases.
After we issued a news release on June 20 pointing out the disparity, Sen. Karen Peterson, the principal sponsor of the bill, took umbrage at our charge that unequal justice is at work. Yet on June 21 she was quoted as saying that the bill allows victims to sue the state if they can meet the high standard of “gross negligence.” She further admitted that the state has the right to claim sovereign immunity, and that it is up to the courts to decide whether it should apply. Thus did she verify the Catholic League’s charge that there were two standards in play.
On June 20, Rep. Greg Lavelle, who sponsored a separate bill that would mandate an equal playing field, called the Catholic League requesting data on public school teachers who abuse kids. The next day he said that our response “offended” him, and he commended his colleagues for taking “all necessary steps to be sure that all children in Delaware are protected regardless of where they go to school….” We noted that if his colleagues really were taking such necessary steps, his separate bill would not be needed.
Buffalo, NY – The City Council passed a resolution objecting to a decision by the Diocese of Buffalo to close some parishes and schools. Council President David A. Franczyk charged that the diocese was abandoning some neighborhoods, giving off “the whiff of ethnic cleansing.” Franczyk also said that if the Catholic Church was having financial problems, it should consider selling the Vatican. Some council members later admitted that the use of the term “ethnic cleansing” in the resolution was wrong; Franczyk, however, did not apologize.
Grand Rapids, MI – Mayor George Heartwell sent out campaign postcards to Catholic voters that showed a picture of a local Catholic church on the front and names of seven local Catholic leaders on the back. Heartwell, an abortion-rights advocate, was running for re-election against city commissioner Rick Tormala, a pro-life Catholic; Tormala labeled Heartwell’s postcard tactic “insulting and deceptive.” We objected to Heartwell’s pandering and religious profiling.
Washington, DC – We issued a news release criticizing efforts to delete Cardinal Edward M. Egan’s name from a U.S. House resolution. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Vito Fossella of New York City, commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of New York. Within hours of our news release, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee passed the resolution with Cardinal Egan’s name still included.
A television ad produced by the Louisiana Democratic Party took several comments about religion made by Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bobby Jindal, a Catholic. The comments originally appeared in an article by Jindal in the December 1996 New Oxford Review. The Democrats’ ad said that Jindal “insulted thousands of Louisiana Protestants. He has referred to Protestant religions as scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical.” As the league pointed out in a news release, the quotes were taken out of context in an egregious manner.
By “scandalous,” Jindal was referring to the sad division within the Christian house; he made reference to the “scandalous series of divisions and new denominations” of the post-Reformation period. Regarding the terms “utterly depraved,” “selfish desires” and “heresy,” Jindal was citing Calvin, who warned against random interpretations of the Bible. As individuals, Calvin instructed, Christians were burdened with “utterly depraved” minds and “selfish desires.” According to Jindal, what concerned Calvin was a “subjective interpretation which leads to anarchy and heresy.”
We called the ad “one of the most scurrilous the Catholic League has ever seen” and called on the Louisiana Democrats to withdraw it immediately. Soon after, the ad was pulled.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Attorney Loring Spolter petitioned the U.S. District Court seeking the recusal of U.S. District Judge William Zloch on the grounds that the judge exhibited religious bias. Spolter objected to the fact that Zloch, who is Catholic, has a close association with Ave Maria Law School, a Catholic. Spolter’s affidavit failed to detail a single instance of religious bias on the part of Judge Zloch.
Washington, DC – Congressional hearings began on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, aimed at prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. While previous versions of the legislation granted unconditional exemptions for religious organizations, the bill’s new version narrowed such exemptions.
For instance, exemptions in the new bill would apply only to religious organizations that are directly engaged in teaching or spreading religious belief. We expressed our concern that some institutions, such as Catholic schools and hospitals, do not teach religious belief as a primary function and thus would no longer qualify for an exemption.
We also noted that the new bill called for religious institutions to identify “which of its religious tenets are significant” enough to warrant an exemption. We objected to the idea of judges deciding what would constitute a “significant” religious tenet, pointing out that the First Amendment prevented such encroachment on religious freedom by the government.
Finally, we compared the new bill to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which has led to affirmative action plans based on race even though the Act expressly prohibits such racial preferences; thus, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act could force religious organizations to develop affirmative action plans for hiring gays.
We wrote to every member of the House asking that the original language regarding religious exemptions be maintained.
Madison, WI – The state Department of Justice removed a religious hymn and a closing prayer led by a Lutheran pastor from a memorial service for murder victims. The action followed a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “We certainly wouldn’t want to have an appearance of a potential church-state violation overshadow the event,” a department spokesman said.