Written By Kara Speltz and Eugene McMullan
One of the scariest things coming out of the November annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is their false claim that our religious freedom — and they claim to speak for all Catholics — is under attack. In the midst of the worst economic crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression, rather than focusing on economic inequalities the bishops have created a bogus distraction, hoping to move the Catholic electorate to the right.
Oakland’s “Catholic Voice” recently carried a lead story stating that our religious freedom is at risk. Many of us ordinary Catholics think that while our religious freedom is not now at risk, it could be put at risk if the hierarchy continues to bring scandal to the church by its handling of the sex abuse crisis, its contempt for the laity, and its shady interventions in U.S. politics (Prop 8 for example). (http://tinyurl.com/7nrw6ls)
The days of the persecuted Catholic Church in America are over, as the country is no longer dominated by Protestants. There is not even a single Protestant left on the Supreme Court, which is now comprised entirely of Catholics and Jews. The bishops are using the defense of religious freedom as an excuse and/or mask for their prejudice and discrimination.
Their real goal is to have Catholic dogma — as defined by them — “trump” and subvert the rights of those whose faith supports equality. Ironically the United Church of Christ, descended from the Puritans and formed when Protestantism was still dominant, supports marriage equality, while the once-persecuted Catholic Church is opposed. Who is the bully now?
The religious freedom at risk is that of persons in the UCC and other pro-equality believers, including the majority of Catholics. A UCC military chaplain, for example, is not allowed to perform a wedding of same-gender spouses in a military chapel in California.
According to the Voice article, the bishops seek to protect “the right of a private individual to deny renting an apartment to a same-sex couple on religious grounds.” The article then raises the fearful specter that a “public school teacher could be fired for refusing to talk about same-sex marriage as a justice issue.” They don’t believe this for a minute. The bishops are not ignorant people; they know exactly what they are doing with their deliberate distortions.
Their real concern is access to government funding: “A religious organization that does not recognize same-sex marriage can be considered discriminatory by a state or local government and lose any contract for services.”
Churches are already tax exempt, which frees up more of our donations to be used for anti-gay activism! Now the bishops want to secure a privileged access to taxpayer monies, while refusing to respect the rule that those who feed at the government trough must respect its definitions of civil rights.