Why Did the USCCB Join This Civil Rights Organization?

Deal W. Hudson
February 8, 2010

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has some surprising associations. For example, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights(LCCHR), founded in 1950, lobbies the Congress and White House on behalf of its 200 coalition members, which includes the USCCB.

Members of the LCCHR must pay annual dues depending on the size of the group ($1,000 minimum) and “must share LCCHR’s principles and purposes.” These criteria were confirmed by Lisa Haywood, membership services director:

Equal rights, equal opportunities and equal justice with regard to race, religion, ethnic origin, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation; and in which every group is accorded an equal opportunity to enter fully into the general life of the society with mutual acceptance and regard for a difference.

As a general statement, this contains nothing objectionable; the trouble is with its application. In short, the LCCHR lobbies on behalf of abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

The question naturally arises: Why did the bishops’ conference join this organization? When LCCHR staff sit in front of a member of Congress, they can legitimately say they are representing the Catholic bishops.

There is nothing ambiguous about LCCHR’s lobbying activity on behalf of abortion, same-sex marriage, and “family planning.” All the items on the LCCHR Web site listed here affirm their support of “marriage equality” and opposition to bans on same-sex marriage – policy positions directly opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

For example, this press release from February 2004 expresses LCCHR’s opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. In it, deputy director Nancy Zirkin states:

The proposed amendment would not only prohibit states from granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, but apparently seeks also to deprive same-sex couples and their families of fundamental protections such as hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and health care benefits, whether conveyed through marriage or other legally recognized relationships, running afoul of basic principles of fairness as well as causing harm to real children and real families.

Regarding its abortion advocacy, LCCHR supports the ratification of the United Nations’ notoriously pro-abortion Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): “The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.”

LCCHR also praises the work of Planned Parenthood, saying it “delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.” And a letter from LCCHR to Attorney General Michael Mukasey supporting the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act argues:

The DOJ bears a critical role in enforcing and protecting women’s basic rights affecting their health, privacy and safety through the positions it takes in key constitutional and statutory interpretation cases, and in many other ways. For example, it is responsible for enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which is key in protecting women’s access to reproductive health care.

For many years, LCCHR has lobbied hard against the confirmation of pro-life judges and justices. In the midst of the debate of pro-abortion nominee Dawn Johnsen, Nancy Zirkin asserted that civil-rights groups are upset that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) hasn’t made the abortion advocate a higher priority. “There’s frustration she’s not at the top of the list,” Zirkin said.

Zirkin’s comment is consistent with the LCCHR’s history of opposition to judges who are pro-life and against same-sex marriage. LCCHR opposed the confirmation of J. Leon Holmes “because of a series of very troubling statements that he made during his legal career that called into question his impartiality on important issues of gender equality, civil rights, women’s rights.” Other pro-life nominees opposed by LCCHR include Charles Pickering Sr.Victor J. WolskiClarence ThomasMatthew W. McConnell, and D. Michael Fischer.

Finally, it should be noted that the USCCB participated in the 2007 and 2008 annual dinner to raise funds for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Evidently, the USCCB regards the work of LCCHR so highly it wants to provide support over and above its annual dues.

Last October, I questioned the USCCB’s membership in the So They Might See coalition, which had called for an FCC investigation into the so-called “hate speech” of Rush Limbaugh. USCCB spokesman Helen Osman explained that the USCCB “shares So We Might See’s general commitments to improving access to broadband among the under-served; to reducing violence in all media; and to reducing the excess of advertising in children’s programming” (emphasis added).

A similar argument will not succeed in explaining the relationship between the bishops’ conference and this civil-rights group. The “general commitments” of LCCHR include both the promotion of abortion on demand and same-sex marriage as civil rights.


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