Gresham, OR – The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found Aaron and Melissa Klein, who run a bakery, guilty of discrimination for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013.
During his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama was speaking about Muslim madmen when he said the following, “Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
The Catholic League issued a news release titled “Obama Insults Christians.” Bill Donohue did not accuse the president of intentionally being anti-Catholic, but rather of perpetuating popular misconceptions about the Church while trying to defend Muslims.
The Crusades were a defensive Christian reaction against Muslim madmen of the Middle Ages. Here is how Princeton scholar and Islamic expert Bernard Lewis puts it: “At the present time, the Crusades are often depicted as an early expansionist imperialism—a prefigurement of the modern European countries. To people of the time, both Muslim and Christian, they were no such thing.” So what were they? “The Crusade was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war for Islam, and its purpose was to recover by war what had been lost by war—to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again, without impediment, to Christian pilgrimage.” According to St. Louis University and Crusade scholar Thomas Madden, “All the Crusades met the criteria of just wars.”
Regarding the other fable, the Inquisition, the Catholic Church had almost nothing to do with it. The Church saw heretics as lost sheep who needed to be brought back into the fold. By contrast, secular authorities saw heresy as treason; anyone who questioned royal authority, or who challenged the idea that kingship was God-given, was guilty of a capital offense. It was they—not the Church—who burned the heretics. Indeed, secular authorities blasted the Church for its weak role in the Inquisition.
Lincoln, NE – State Senator Ernie Chambers targeted the Catholic Church during a committee hearing on an anti-discrimination bill that would force employers to hire job applicants without considering their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Senate committee was considering exemptions to the law for religious organizations.
Chambers first remarked that if it was up to him there would be no exemption, but then he continued his criticism, targeting the Catholic Church specifically. “I make the admonition to them that the referee makes at every prize fight: protect yourself at all times,” Chambers said referring to the Church’s opposition to the bill.
February 17 – 24
San Francisco, CA – On February 17, eight California lawmakers wrote a letter to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone condemning the proposed union contract for teachers who work at the four archdiocese high schools. On February 23, two of these legislators asked the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation.
On February 24, Bill Donohue wrote to the chairmen of the two committees; a copy was sent to committee members, and to the eight lawmakers who wrote to the archbishop. The following is an excerpt of that letter; the full letter is available on the Catholic League’s website.
On February 23, Assemblyman Phil Ting and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin asked the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation of the proposed high school contracts for teachers in the San Francisco Archdiocese. The request is not only illicit, it is based on faulty information.
As intended by the Founders, the First Amendment insulates religious institutions from state encroachment. At a minimum this means that employment contracts, entered into voluntarily by teachers at religious schools, are, with rare exception, not the business of the state. That the courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, have repeatedly validated this fundamental constitutional right is incontestable.
In his letter of February 19 to the eight lawmakers, Archbishop Cordileone mentions that the legislators were making decisions based on erroneous information. He explicitly mentioned “the falsehood that the morality clauses apply to the teachers’ private life.” In their letter of February 17, these lawmakers claim that the contract affects the “professional, public, and private lives of every school employee.”
This statement is flatly wrong: the contract does not apply to the private lives of teachers. This is not open to interpretation. On February 4, the archdiocese released a statement on Church teachings and practices in the high schools. It stipulates that teachers “must refrain from public support of any cause or issue that is explicitly or implicitly contrary to that which the Catholic Church holds to be true….” It says nothing about the private lives of teachers—it is speaking to the issue of publicly advocating causes that are in direct opposition to Church teachings.
A helpful Q&A statement on the contract proposals was also issued on February 4. Not only does it say that there is no “oath” being required of teachers, it even goes so far as to say that if teachers cannot assent to the teachings of the Catholic Church, “then they should at least avoid publicly undermining the lessons taught at the school of their employment.”
At this point, I must ask every state legislator: If you had in your employ a person who publicly opposed your positions on law and public policy, what would you do? The answer is obvious. Why, then, should the Catholic Church be held to a different standard? Just like you, those who work for the Catholic Church are not expected to tolerate mutiny.
As chairmen of two important committees, please understand the chilling effect that these eight lawmakers are having on the affairs of the archdiocese. Catholic schools have a mission, and while not everyone agrees with it, many do; they expect that their leaders can pursue it without fear of intimidation or punitive sanctions.
It must also be asked if these lawmakers are raising similar concerns with the leaders of other faith communities? Christian schools, yeshivas, and Islamic schools exist in San Francisco and other parts of California.
Are any of their teacher contracts being scrutinized? If so, which schools are they? If not, why are the high schools in the Archdiocese of San Francisco being targeted for investigation?
Finally, are we to believe that if a Catholic teacher were to publicly espouse racist views that these same lawmakers would not object? Indeed, would they not demand that he be fired? And would not Archbishop Cordileone make sure he was fired?
This is significant: racism, like abortion, is officially labeled as “intrinsically evil” by the Catholic Catechism. In other words, those who publicly promote abortion or racism have no legitimate role to play as Catholic ministers. Even those who do not agree that both of these issues should be seen as evil should at least respect the right of the Catholic Church to teach otherwise.
San Francisco, CA – The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco unanimously passed a resolution that declared war on the Archdiocese of San Francisco over its proposed teacher contracts; teachers were to agree that they would not publically promote causes that were contrary to the Church’s teachings. The resolution, authored by Supervisor Mark Farrell, claimed to respect the Archdiocese of San Francisco, but at the same time urged it to “fully respect the rights of its teachers and administrators, and pursue contract terms with their educators that respects their individual rights.” Bill Donohue responded by writing to Supervisor Farrell. An excerpt of that letter is below.
Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by you, on the rights of teachers and administrators who work for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It contains several errors of fact. More important, it contains lies.
The biggest lie is found in paragraph three. “WHEREAS, the City of San Francisco also respects the autonomy of the Archdiocese of San Francisco….” It is a lie because most of what follows proves that you and your colleagues have nothing but contempt for the autonomy of the archdiocese. As such, your palpable hostility to the doctrinal prerogatives of the archdiocese has grave First Amendment implications.
It is not the business of the state to police the internal affairs of any religious institution. Were a clergyman to lecture the Board of Supervisors on what its employment policies ought to be, it would be greeted with howls of protest citing separation of church and state. The establishment provision of the First Amendment cuts both ways.
Almost every world religion in history, in both Eastern and Western civilization, has found homosexual behavior to be sinful. Yet you single out the Catholic Church for holding to this teaching—which we learned from Judaism—thus showing your discriminatory colors. Will you now seek to monitor the handbook of teachers used by ministers, rabbis, and imams in their schools?
Your resolution, though mostly flawed, is correct on one important matter. You correctly say that the new handbook maintains that faculty “must refrain from public support of any cause or issue that is explicitly or implicitly contrary to that which the Catholic Church holds to be true….” How remarkable! Would you keep on staff those who publicly oppose your positions? Do you see how foolish this makes you look?
Finally, you and I both know that your bigoted resolution has no legal teeth. I would add that it has no moral teeth as well.
Washington, DC – The United States Supreme Court ordered a review of the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and then sent the case back to the appellate panel for a review in light of the high court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. On February 21, 2014, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the University of Notre Dame had to accept an accommodation to the HHS mandate that requires employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.
The Hobby Lobby case was decided June 30, 2014, over four months after Notre Dame lost in the appeals court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court held that family-owned businesses could assert religious freedom interests in not complying with the HHS mandate. The 7th Circuit must now review its 2-1 decision taking into consideration the entire Hobby Lobby case. The Notre Dame case is the only one to challenge the HHS mandate that was decided prior to the Hobby Lobby case.
Atlanta, GA – The Georgia legislature passed a bill, the Hidden Predator Act, that would lift the statute of limitations for two years on civil suits filed against alleged sexual abusers. It was rightly being opposed by the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations.
One of the Georgia lawmakers who favored the bill was State Representative Jason Spencer. But he was not content to voice support for it—he
waged a bigoted anti-Catholic campaign against the Atlanta archdiocese. He repeatedly branded the archdiocese a “pro-child predator special interest group” that is part of the “child sexual predator lobby.”
Rep. Spencer is a Republican conservative pro-life legislator who belongs to a Christian interdenominational church. But his Christian affiliation obviously did not stop him from promoting anti-Catholicism.
Washington, DC – During the White House Easter breakfast, “On Easter,” President Obama said, “I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned.”
The president had a grand opportunity to say something timely and urgent; after all, dozens of Christians had just been captured and murdered in Kenya by Muslim barbarians. Instead the president denigrated Christians.
A few weeks earlier, Obama could not muster the courage to mention by name the religious affiliation of those who were chosen for execution—they are called Christians—but he had no problem letting the name Christian roll off his lips when it came to disparaging them. The reason why Obama did not mention Christians by name is because he did not want to offend Muslims.
Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 20-16 to advance a bill overturning the District of Columbia’s recently enacted Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act.
Far from advancing “non-discrimination,” the Reproductive Health Act, along with the Human Rights Amendment Act also enacted by the D.C. government, would “subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and result in discrimination against religious believers,” the Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement. For example, as Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Catholic University of America President John Garvey explained in an April 19 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, the Reproductive Health Act could be used to force the Church to employ – even in its pro-life education ministry – someone who would use their position to counsel women to have an abortion. And the Human Rights Act could be used to force Catholic colleges and universities to give official sanction to student groups – such as gay and lesbian groups – that actively oppose Catholic teaching.
New York, NY – It was not surprising – and ordinarily not of interest to the Catholic League – that Hillary Clinton, in a speech to the Women in the World summit, would declare her support for Planned Parenthood. Hillary, after all, opposes a ban on even late-term, partial birth abortion. What made it an issue for us, however, was when she told her feminist audience that religious beliefs on abortion must be changed.
“Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half,” she said, “but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health [read: abortion] and safe childbirth. All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed. (Italics added)
In other words, here was presidential candidate Hillary Clinton demanding that the Catholic Church change its teachings on abortion to comport with her ideology. Never before have we seen a candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church’s pro-life teachings. We await her explanation of exactly how she plans to use the powers of government to deliver on her pledge.
Camp Lejeune, NC – An appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals was made after a U.S. Marine officer was found guilty at a court martial for disobeying the “lawful order” of her superior officer to remove biblical phrases that she had taped onto her computer and desk. Former Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was forced to remove the verse “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” Isaiah 54:17, from her computer and other biblical verses that she had taped to her desk.
Meadville, PA – A church regained the right to serve and minister at a government-run housing project after initially being booted simply for being “religious.”
Rachael Groll, the Children’s Ministry Director at Living Waters Church, began reaching out to families at the Gill Village housing project last year when she noticed a group of children eating pancake mix right out of the box. She and her church began providing free food and clothing, as well as after school mentoring, free rides to community events and to their church. Soon she began leading “Sidewalk Sunday School” programs consisting of Bible stories, music and games for the children and families. But last September, the church was notified by the government housing agency that they were not welcome back – simply because they were a religious entity.
The church contacted the Alliance Defending Freedom, which demanded that the housing authorities cease engaging in religious discrimination. “Religious speech receives full and robust protection under the First Amendment and cannot lawfully be excluded from government property simply because of its religious nature and viewpoint.” Housing authority officials then agreed to remove the restrictions from the church, acknowledging that they had misunderstood the Constitution.
New York, NY – Bill Donohue wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the refusal of the United Nations to punish sexual abuse committed by its peacekeeping missions. He called for the U.N. to either implement its “zero tolerance” policy, or to stop all proceedings against the Holy See on this issue.
Below is an excerpt of Donohue’s letter.
As president of the largest Catholic civil rights organization in the United States, I am appealing to you to do one of two things: a) either ensure that the United Nations’ policy on “zero tolerance” against convicted sex abusers serving in peacekeeping missions is enforced immediately, or b) cease and desist from probing into alleged sexual abuse violations committed by those in the employ of the Holy See.
This duplicity can no longer be tolerated. When U.N. panels sit in judgment of the Holy See on these matters—while the U.N. itself does nothing to combat sexual abuse committed by those under its watch—it rubs all fair-minded people the wrong way; it is also the height of hypocrisy. Indeed, it is analogous to a corrupt judge overseeing a trial on corruption. Consider recent revelations about the U.N.’s failure to seriously address this issue.
In 2002, the American bishops adopted, and began enforcing, a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse committed by Church employees; the Holy See has since implemented a similar policy. Two years later, the U.N. adopted a “zero tolerance” policy, but unlike the Catholic Church, it was never enforced. Worse, the conventional response has been to grant immunity to those accused of sexual offenses. I can only imagine how the U.N. would react if the Catholic Church decided to grant immunity to accused sex offenders.
In 2012, eight years after the U.N. adopted its “zero tolerance” policy, you promoted an “enhanced plan of action” to combat this problem, yet a special report by a U.N.-commissioned independent panel recently determined that a “culture of silence” prevails and that “impunity” rules.
It is more than laughable—it is obscene—that U.N. peacekeeping members who have been convicted of sexual abuse are not even fined! To be exact, this September the U.N. General Assembly will debate whether convicted sex offenders should lose their vacation pay!
This problem is not going away. Reports of women and children being sexually molested by U.N. peacekeeping forces continue to pour in from all over the world. For example, we know that well over 500 victims of sexual assault were recently treated in one year in the Central African Republic alone. How many others have suffered elsewhere?
To do the probing of these cases, the U.N. has authorized 168 civilian positions. But only 1.2 percent of the posts have been filled. Similarly, new ways for alleged victims to state their grievances have been announced, but there has been no follow through. Another program, a multilingual learning initiative for peacekeeping personnel, has been mandated to deal with sexual abuse, but not only has it not been implemented—the pilot program does not begin until May 2016.
When asked why the U.N. has failed to deliver on this issue, its spokesmen say it is difficult to ensure enforcement. No doubt it is. But would this be accepted as a legitimate response if offered by the Holy See? We all know the answer.
I speak from experience. I have read what officials from the U.N. Committee against Torture, and the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, have said about the Holy See. I have also replied to their reports. In particular, the May 2014 report by the Committee on Torture was a highly politicized and totally biased statement against the Holy See.
Let me repeat my appeal. Either move with dispatch to implement the “zero tolerance” policy that was adopted in 2004, or demand that U.N. officials of the aforementioned U.N committees stop with their inquiries into alleged wrongdoing by the Holy See. I hope you choose the former.
Albany, NY – A Christian couple that owns a family farm in New York appealed after the state fined them $13,000 for refusing to host a same-sex wedding on their property. A lesbian couple had filed a discrimination complaint when Cynthia and Robert Gifford said the family’s religious beliefs prevented them from hosting the couple’s wedding ceremony at the farm, despite the fact that the Giffords did say that the couple was welcome to have its reception there. Last summer a judge ordered the Giffords to pay $10,000 to the government and $3,000 to the same-sex couple.
Washington, DC – In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a constitutional right that must be observed by all 50 states. The five justices cited the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause as their rationale.
Far and away the worst part of this ruling is its ominous implications for religious liberty. The majority declared that religious Americans “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” “The First Amendment,” the five justices said, “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent, rightly criticized this genuflection to religious rights. “Religious liberty,” he said, “is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally” – it is not confined to advocacy.
Two days after this ruling, New York Times columnist Mark Oppenheimer called upon the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches.
Oklahoma City, OK – The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed, because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit religion. State Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that the U.S. Supreme Court found constitutional. The court said the Oklahoma monument violated the state’s constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. In a statement AG Pruitt said, “The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.”
On July 27, The Oklahoma Supreme Court reaffirmed its original decision and issued a ruling denying Attorney General Pruitt’s request for a rehearing.
Bowling Green, KY – The state of Kentucky revoked the volunteer prison minister status of ordained Christian Minister David Wells, pursuant to a Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) policy issued in 2014 that states that volunteers cannot refer to homosexuality or other alternative sexual lifestyles as “sinful.” Mr. Wells was unable in good conscience to sign a paper promising to comply with this policy, which states that DJJ staff, volunteers and others, “shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.” He had volunteered for more than 10 years at the facility.