CatholiCity 2010

Catholic Politicians Supporting Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

Deal W. Hudson
January 7, 2010

Writing for the Catholic Advocate, Matt Smith reports that 39 of the 106 cosponsors of a House bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act are “self-identified” Catholics. Smith, a former associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, warns that same-sex marriage activists are trying to bring H.R. 3567 – ironically, titled the “Respect for Marriage Act 2009” – to the House floor this year.

The end of DOMA would mean 40 states would be required to recognize same-sex marriage. As Smith writes, the political fallout would be enormous: “Democrats will have learned nothing from the current health care debate or the voices of the voters in the states that have repealed gay marriage initiatives.”

Earlier this week, I wrote about Catholics in Congress leading the effort to procure abortion funding. Now we see many of the same names, such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), seeking to change the legal status of marriage in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

In 1996, the Catholic bishops in the U.S. expressed that teaching this way:

[W]e oppose attempts to grant the legal status of marriage to a relationship between persons of the same sex. No same-sex union can realize the unique and full potential which the marital relationship expresses. For this reason, our opposition to “same-sex marriage” is not an instance of unjust discrimination or animosity toward homosexual persons.

American citizens appear to be on the side of the bishops, not the dissenters in Congress. In the nearly six years since the Supreme Court in Massachusetts made that state the first to recognize gay marriage, 26 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit gay marriage. Last November, Maine – a blue state – voted to repeal the law legalizing gay marriage. In December, the New York Senate voted to reject a gay-marriage bill.

Today, the New Jersey State Senate will vote on a same-sex marriage bill. Activists are hoping to get the bill passed while Gov. John Corzine is still in office, as his successor, Chris Christie, is a Catholic opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage. If passed, New Jersey would be the seventh state – following Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont – to recognize gay marriage.

Gay activists are hoping to turn the tide in their direction after winning a victory in Washington, D.C., last month when the city council voted for legalization. But, as Smith points out, the D.C. bill must pass congressional review before the House Government Reform and Oversight Sub-Committee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia.

Noting that the sub-committee is composed of seven Democrats and three Republicans, Smith writes, “With such a lopsided advantage, advocates anticipate marriages could begin in the District of Columbia as early as February 16. Since the District is a federal territory, same-sex couples from any state will be free to travel to our nation’s capital to wed.” Four of these subcommittee members are Catholic: William “Lacy” Clay (D, MO-01), Dennis Kucinich (D, OH-10), Gerry Connolly (D, VA-11), and Brian Bilbray (R, CA-50).

Smith argues that the Democrats are using the same-sex marriage issue to “re-energize their disappointed base leading into the November 2, 2010, mid-term elections.” If so, they are wading into already very turbulent waters, as the majority of Americans (52 percent) are opposed to the health-care reform the Democrats are trying to ram through Congress.

An even larger majority of Americans (55 percent) oppose the abortion funding that the Democrats and the White House are gearing up to protect from the threat of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his pro-life coalition in the House. With all this public discontent, the mid-term election of 2010 could take on the high drama of a presidential election.

* * *

The following are the names of the Catholic co-sponsors of H.R. 3567, a bill “to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for State regulation of marriage,” according to Smith’s tally:

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D, NY-24)

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D, CA-31)

Rep. Michael Capuano (D, MA-8)

Rep. Wm. “Lacy” Clay (D, MO-1)

Rep. Gerald “Gerry” Connolly (D, VA-11)

Rep. Joe Courtney (D, CT-2)

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D, NY-7)

Rep. Bill Delahunt (D, MA-10)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D, CT-3)

Rep. Michael Doyle (D, PA-14)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-7)

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D, IL-4)

Rep. John Hall (D, NY-19)

Rep. Brian Higgins (D, NY-27)

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D, NY-22)

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D, RI-1)

Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D, OH-15)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D, OH-10)

Rep. John Larson (D, CT-1)

Rep. Ben Lujan (D, NM-3)

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D, MA-9)

Rep. Daniel Maffei (D, NY-25)

Rep. Edward Markey (D, MA-7)

Rep. Betty McCollum (D, MN-4)

Rep. James McGovern (D, MA-3)

Rep. George Miller (D, CA-7)

Rep. Jim Moran (D, VA-8)

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D, CA-38)

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D, NJ-6)

Rep. Ed Pastor (D, AZ-4)

Rep. Charles Rangel (D, NY-15)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA-34)

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D, CA-39)

Rep. Jose Serrano (D, NY-16)

Rep. Joe Sestak (D, PA-7)

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH-1)

Rep. Paul Tonko (D, NY-21)

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D, NY-12)

Rep. Diane Watson (D, CA-33)

Virginia Catholics Take Up Arms against Obamacare

Deal W. Hudson
January 14, 2010

Three Virginia Catholics are leading the resistance against the encroaching power of the Obama White House.

As reported in the Washington Post, legislation has been introduced to curb federal power over health insurance, interstate commerce, and gun regulation. Three of the leaders behind this effort are pro-life Catholics: Robert G. Marshall, a delegate to the Virginia legislature; Attorney General-Elect Ken Cuccinelli; and Gov. Robert McDonnell. (It’s something of a historical irony that Catholics have risen to such prominence in a state which sought to exclude the Catholic faith at its founding.)

Marshall, from Prince William County in Northern Virginia, is convinced that “Obamacare is set to mug the country.” He recently introduced a bill (HB 10) asserting that the federal government has no right to require citizens to pay for private health insurance. The bill reads:

No law shall interfere with the right of a person or entity to pay for lawful medical services to preserve life or health, nor shall any law impose a penalty, tax, fee, or fine, of any type, to decline or to contract for health care coverage….

Marshall, like many Americans, objects to the Senate version of the health-care bill, which would require individuals to spend $15,000 annually on private health insurance or be fined up to $1,900. Refuse to pay the fine, and you could spend up to a year in jail and receive a $25,000 fine.

Marshall recognizes that the federal government has the power to regulate matters affecting interstate commerce, but he argues that this has nothing to do with an individual purchasing health insurance. For Obamacare to survive litigation, Marshall writes, “The Supreme Court would have to find that the absence of economic activity (not purchasing insurance) was itself a form of economic activity having a substantial effect on interstate commerce.”

The reasons for introducing HB 10 go beyond resisting federal power over health insurance. Marshall is concerned with its impact on contract law, “namely, its voluntary nature which underpins America’s entire business culture.” Neither mandated auto insurance nor the military draft justifies the federal government force-feeding its citizen’s health insurance: The former derives its rationale from the privilege of driving and the need to protect others on public roads, and the latter is expressly allowed by the Constitution.

What makes Obama’s health-care plan different from tax mandates, for Marshall, is that Congress already mandates tax payments like Social Security. This, however, is the first time Congress has attempted to force individual citizens to buy a specific product from a private company.

If the Congress can require individuals to buy private insurance for the “general welfare,” Marshall asks, what will keep it from mandating other purchases, such as “new windows or insulation to save the environment?” What about requiring states not to register “automobiles older than 2005 to minimize air pollution?”

Such possibilities are hardly preposterous – rather, they seem quite in line with the kind of paternalistic attitude coming from the party presently in power.

Conservative activists in Virginia are rallying to his cause. Steve Waters, the president of the Virginia Christian Alliance, told me, “Marshall, once again, has provided the critical leadership required to protect families in Virginia.” Mark Tate, a well-known Catholic consultant and activist, added, “Marshall is showing how individual states can stand up to this over-reaching unconstitutional legislation.”

As a matter of fact, Marshall’s effort, supported by both Cuccinelli and McDonnell, is starting to gain attention nationwide. Thus far, Marshall has been contacted by legislators from four other states – North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania – that may introduce similar legislation.

These three Catholic politicians from Virginia have won elections and risen to prominence without ever hedging their pro-life, pro-family views. Their success contradicts the advice almost always given by political consultants to candidates about “moderating” their view on social issues. This was a losing strategy in 2008, in both the Virginia congressional and presidential races.

Catholics and the Personhood Initiative

Deal W. Hudson
January 18, 2010

As pro-lifers head to the nation’s capital this week, they are united in their opposition to abortion funding in the health-care bill. But, as they gather for the 37th annual March for Life, pro-life leaders are divided on the merits of the Personhood Initiative, a nationwide effort to establish legal “personhood” for the pre-born from the time of conception.

The initiative was begun in 2007 by Kristi Burton, then a 19-year-old Baptist from rural Colorado. Together with Mark Meuser, a young attorney, she founded Colorado for Equal Rights and began collecting the 76,000 signatures necessary to get the Colorado Definition of a Person Amendment on the 2008 ballot. By May 2008, they had collected over 100,000 signatures.

Colorado voters turned down the amendment by a stunning 73 percent to 27 percent, in spite of support from Focus on the Family, American Life League, and legal advice from the Thomas More Law Center. But the effort had failed to gain the support of either National Right to Life (NRTL) or the Colorado Catholic Conference.

NRTL considered incremental pro-life efforts more successful at saving unborn lives, leading to a break with their Colorado affiliate, which supported the amendment. The Colorado bishops took a similar line to NTRL, adding that, if the amendment was overturned in federal court, the ruling could “actively reaffirm the mistaken jurisprudence of Roe.” However, Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, made it clear that they “commend the goal of this effort to end abortion. Individual Catholics may choose to work for its passage.”

Catholic bishops in other states – such as Georgia, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota – have likewise withheld their support from the personhood initiative in their states. Their stance has inevitably confused and upset many Catholic and Evangelical activists, who had become used to working side by side in the pro-life movement. Suddenly, the Catholics were feeling discouraged by their bishops’ lack of support.

However, in October 2009, the Colorado bishops issued a different statement, giving permission for individual pastors to allow signatures to be collected in their parishes.

What had changed?

For one, the initiative had new leadership. The day after the 2008 defeat, Personhood USA was founded by Evangelical ministers Cal Zastrow and Keith Mason. They proposed a new Colorado Fetal Personhood Amendment, written by Georgetown University professor Dianne Irving, who thought the language of the earlier amendment was problematic.

Mason says the organization has not only a new amendment but also a new strategy for the 2010 election. This new strategy includes an outreach to Hispanics, to be lead by Gualberto Garcia Jones, who also heads Colorado Catholics for Personhood. Jones evidently got into a dust-up with the Catholic Conference over allegedly misrepresenting the bishops’ position, but the bishops’ latest statement suggests that rift has been healed.

Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, has taken a more positive view of the efforts to recognize the personhood of the pre-born. In an August 6, 2009, column for the Catholic Sentinel, Vasa wrote that Georgia’s Sanctity of Human Life Act

does not seek to introduce some inane legal fiction, but rather seeks to overturn a faulty legal fiction. The fiction, in which we are presently living, inanely pretends that human beings are not really human beings unless the Supreme Court passes judgment on them and declares them to be so. African slaves were always human beings and the Supreme Court decisions said or did nothing to change that. It simply recognized the truth. The Sanctity of Human Life Act seeks legal recognition of the same truth.

Bishop Vasa is less concerned with the likely outcome of a legal challenge in court than he is with getting the truth about human beings inscribed into law. Russell Shaw, a veteran Catholic journalist, and historian of the U.S. Church sees the effort in a similar light. Writing in Our Sunday Visitor last October, Shaw noted that the personhood effort has had few major victories and has split the pro-life movement, but “they see what they’re doing as a way of keeping the personhood issue alive and visible, educating people on the subject, and giving grassroots pro-lifers something to rally around.”

Thus far in 2010, seven states have launched formal “personhood” efforts: Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Nevada. (A judge recently struck down the Nevada amendment on the grounds that it violated a law limiting referendum questions to a single subject.) An additional 26 other states are organized and in the preliminary stages of launching the initiative.

Among the more than 40,000 grassroots volunteers behind Personhood USA, there are undoubtedly thousands of Catholic pro-lifers who remain puzzled by the decision of their bishops to stand at a distance from their effort.

 

Why Is the Obama Administration Going Soft on Iran Sanctions?

Deal W. Hudson
January 25, 2010

Hilary Clinton’s recent comments on Iran sanctions have disappointed the dozen conservative Christian leaders who signed two letters to Congress last year (on September 24 and December 14) expressing support for the House bill intended to stop the rogue nation’s nuclear program.

The bill, which passed 412 to 12, would have authorized the White House to ban companies supplying foreign oil to Iran from doing business in the United States. Christian leaders were hopeful that Secretary Clinton would attempt to overcome White House resistance to the sanctions’ legislation, which emerged immediately after the House vote.

Clinton favors more “targeted sanctions” against elites like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) that would avoid hurting the larger population (as would the large-scale gas shortage envisioned by the House bill).

Ilan Berman, writing in Forbes, reports that Iran is moving quickly to build up its petroleum supplies in anticipation of possible sanctions. Yet Iran still receives 40 percent of its annual petroleum consumption from foreign sources:

By attacking this dependency, the U.S. and its allies have the ability to generate enormous pressure on Iran’s government. Even a partial gasoline embargo would force Iran’s ayatollahs to deplete hard currency reserves in the quest for new sources of refined petroleum, and bring commerce within the Islamic Republic to a virtual standstill.

Berman addresses the idea of more targeted sanctions against the IRGC as suggested by Secretary Clinton. The problem with this approach, according to Berman, is that the IRGC is now “arguably the major economic force within the Islamic Republic.” In other words, the IRGC is so deeply embedded in the Iranian economy, its leadership and projects cannot be targeted without affecting the general population.

The indisputable facts that led to the overwhelming, bipartisan support of Iran sanctions in the House are the same described by Christian leaders like Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Tom Minnery, Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed, and Bill Donohue in their second letter to Congress:

The stakes are exceedingly high. A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders.

As the world’s leading state sponsor of international terror, we must assume Iran will sell or give nuclear weapons to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.

As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will be the key figure in determining whether the Senate will consider the House bill. Kerry was urged by the White House to postpone consideration of the bill after its passage, but he announced in late December that he might undertake a diplomatic mission to Iran. As the Wall Street Journal opined,

If the mullahs had any sense, they’d send him a government plane… Mr. Kerry would arrive from Washington to show the Iranian people that at least someone still favors the regime. He would be the most senior American to visit Tehran in 30 years and his trip would convey legitimacy that the dictatorship is especially eager to have at the current moment.

But the mullahs decided they didn’t need Kerry’s act of homage, and Iran’s own parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee turned down his request.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to thumb its nose at the International Atomic Energy Agency in the same way it did Senator Kerry. Iran has rejected IAEA’s proposal that it ships all its uranium (up to 2,500 pounds) to Russia where it can be enriched, then to France where it can be turned into fuel rods, then back to Iran where it cannot be turned into nuclear weapons.

Representatives from the America, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany who met last week in New York City failed to come to an agreement regarding sanctions. Since Russia and China remain opposed to sanctions, any initiative by Western nations comes with diplomatic and economic risk.

President Obama set a deadline of December 31 for negotiations with Iran. That date has long passed with nothing but administration fears that sanctions would cause economic hardship for too many Iranians. If the Congress and White House do not act quickly and decisively, the human cost could far exceed that of any temporary sanctions on petroleum flowing into Iran.

Obama Fails to Seize the Opportunity of His Big Night

Deal W. Hudson
January 28, 2010

President Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address last night. With his popularity in a steady decline over the past six months, Obama needed his speech to rekindle the enthusiasm for his leadership that elected him in the first place. Thus far, there is no evidence to suggest he was successful.

In his State of the Union had been a Broadway show, the morning reviews would have closed the show in the first week.

One reason for Obama’s inability to reverse his popularity slide is his decision to ignore the fact that a majority of Americans do not support some of his key initiatives. In a Rasmussen poll taken just before the speech, 61 percent wanted Obama and the Congress to drop health-care reform and focus on jobs. But Obama ignored this widespread resistance and called on Congress to get the bill passed, saying, “We need health insurance reform.”

Simply renaming health-care reform “health insurance reform” will not solve Obama’s political puzzle, nor the underlying problems of the legislation. But this is typical of the president’s approach to political obstacles – change the language, not the substance, and people will drop their objections.

The speech itself broke no new ground either in tone or substance. Obama continued to blame the Bush administration for his inability to rebuild the economy and the GOP for the lack of meaningful legislation passed (in particular, health-care reform).

Most unsettling was Obama’s dressing down of the Supreme Court – who were all sitting directly in front of him – for their recent decision lifting the restrictions on corporate contributions to political advertising. This presidential faux pas elicited a wincing, head-shaking, “that’s not true” from Justice Samuel Alito, which quickly became a popular YouTube video.

Alito’s response is already being called the “Joe Wilson moment” of the evening, referring to the South Carolina congressman’s “You lie!” outburst during the president’s last speech to Congress in September. Needless to say, it doesn’t help Obama that such strong gut reactions became part of the media narrative of an evening that was to be the resuscitation of his presidency.

Other than stumbling over the separation of powers tripwire, the most awkward moment for Obama was the laughter, even from Nancy Speaker Nancy Pelosi, following his declaration, “Starting in 2011, we are prepared to cap government spending for three years.” Embarrassed by the laughter from both sides of the chamber, Obama awkwardly ad-libbed, “That’s how budgets work.” But his speech never recovered its momentum.

If Obama was trying to revive his popularity with independents, he chose a strange moment to announce the end of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the U.S. military. Passed by the 103rd Congress in 1993, this policy regarding homosexuals in the military was signed by President Bill Clinton, a master of attracting and keeping the support of independents. Why Obama would choose to pay homage to his far-left base when he is hemorrhaging independents and blue-dog Democrats are inexplicable.

Some of the punditry following the speech was bizarre. NBC’s Chris Matthews made two contradictory statements. First, he called Obama’s speech “post-racial,” whatever that means, but then added, “Tonight, I forgot he was black.” What? If Matthews had “forgotten Obama was black,” he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

Obama’s State of the Union will do nothing to help his popularity, nor will it dilute the potency of Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts on January 19. The president should have spoken directly to the discontent that created an election environment where a Republican could win the seat Ted Kennedy held for 46 years. Instead, he chose to play the martyr to those “malevolent Republicans.”

 

More Disturbing News about the CCHD

Deal W. Hudson
February 2, 2010

More startling evidence has been unearthed about the Catholic Campaign for Human development that shows a disturbing pattern of cooperation between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and groups that advocate abortion and same-sex marriage.

Two reports, released yesterday by the American Life League (ALL) and Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM), reveal that the Center for Community Change (CCC), an organization recommended for support by the USCCB, has consistently taken positions opposed to the bishops’ teachings on abortion, marriage, contraception, and sexuality.

Our bishops tell us to “lend our support” to CCC. Here is only a partial list of what these reports have revealed about the Center for Community Change:

    1. CCC’s executive director, Deepak Bhargava, states that they are fighting for “lifting restrictions on women’s access to health services.” (Bhargava was also a featured speaker hosted by the USCCB at a three-day conference.)

 

    1. CCC joined the “Stop Stupak” coalition through its “Campaign for Community Change” arm, explaining, “Of course, no issue is more critical to women’s economic opportunity than the ability to choose when and under what personal circumstances to raise children.”

 

    1. CCC is a member of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR). NCIWR requires all members to sign an agreement supporting, among other things, “Reproductive health care coverage financed through public funds provided to all immigrant women regardless of legal and economic status,” as well as “equitable access to confidential and non-coercive family planning services and contraceptive equity.”

 

    1. Sean Thomas-Brietfield, Director of CCC’s Taproots Project, wrote an article promoting consensual “polyamory,” or “relationships where there is no expectation of fidelity.”

 

    1. CCC developed leaders for same-sex marriage advocates and homosexual activists through its Generation Change program. In 2008, CCC received a $50,000 grant for leadership training from one of the chief funders of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered) causes, the Gill Foundation.

 

  1. Ralph McCloud, the current Director of the CCHD, participated in a December 2008 event cosponsored by CCC and the Gamaliel Foundation, “Realizing the Promise Forum,” celebrating the election of Barack Obama. McCloud is reported to have proclaimed, “Very soon we will see a New Jerusalem.” The conference video suggests the CCC is engaged in “partisan political activity” in violation of the CCHD grant guidelines.

This is the second round of incriminating evidence presented by ALL and BVM about the CCC. Three months ago, they issued a press release and supporting research regarding 31 CCHD grantees with a relationship to CCC – all of which was ignored by the USCCB.

As ALL’s Michael Hichborn points out, these reports have “revealed no less than fifty organizations (one-fifth of all CCHD grantees from 2009) that are, in some capacity, engaged in pro-abortion or pro-homosexual causes (www.all.org/cchd). The sad thing, however, is that these recent revelations manifest a pattern of cooperation stretching back for decades.”

These latest findings make it impossible for the USCCB not to sever its ties with the CCC. However, the situation is made more difficult by the news that John Carr – who oversees the CCHD as the USCCB’s Executive Director of the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development – served on the CCC board from 1999 to 2006 and on its executive committee from 1999 to 2001. Carr was hired by the USCCB in 1987, but his involvement with the CCC goes back to 1983.

ALL research shows that in 2000, while Carr served on its executive committee, CCC itself received a $150,000 grant from the USCCB. Carr’s resume at the USCCB Web site does not mention his service at the CCC, while other published versions of his resume do.

As Hichborn comments, “The omission is odd and, given the new information, quite suspicious.” Hichborn also thinks the “cozy relationship” between Carr and the CCC may be the reason the USCCB did not respond to the troublesome findings published last November. The ties between CCC and the USCCB remained close after Carr left the board. (Tom Chabolla, Carr’s associate director at the USCCB, replaced him.)

In response to these reports, Carr issued a statement to Our Sunday Visitor, explaining, “I left the board of the Center for Community Change in February of 2005, and I had no involvement in or knowledge of the actions alleged in the press release.”

Carr does not deny the charges but claims to have no knowledge of them, including the one that alleges CCC’s partisan activity. But one speech Carr gave mentioned being in a CCC board meeting with a John Kerry campaign strategist who started his political views quite plainly:

I remember being told on a board meeting for the Center for Community Change. One of the Kerry strategists, who shall remain nameless, that the strategy was to go after singles, seculars, and gays. And my reaction was, that’s a great way to carry Berkeley and midtown Manhattan. It’s not a way to win Ohio.

The overwhelming evidence about CCC’s positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception make it difficult to believe that Carr was, after six years on its board, unaware of these attitudes among CCC staff.

Rob Gaspar, the founder of BVM, summarizes the issue facing the USCCB:

While it may seem that the interests of the Church and the CCC intersect on several important issues such as health-care and immigration reform, a cursory examination shows that Church social teaching and the CCC’s guiding principles are, in fact, two separate roads leading to fundamentally different destinations.

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.