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Governmental Gay Hostility to the Church

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Apr 24, 2007

In recent weeks Italian Christians have experienced an outbreak of gay hostility, including slogans urging death to Christians, because Church leaders have stood firm against the idea of same-sex civil unions. But this hostility has, at least, come from private citizens. In the United States, it has reached the governmental level.

On March 21, 2006, the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, California unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Catholic Church for its opposition to adoption by same-sex couples. This resolution was triggered by a reaffirmation of Catholic teaching on this matter by William Cardinal Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the former Archbishop of San Francisco. It is worth noting that, a week later, the Board of Supervisors also voted unanimously to condemn 25,000 Evangelical teens who gathered to express their opposition to homosexual conduct.

The March 21st resolution urged Catholic leaders to “defy” Church teaching by placing adoptive children with homosexual couples. Among other things, the resolution condemned Catholic directives against same-sex adoption as “hateful and discriminatory rhetoric [that] is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors.” According to the resolution, “It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great city's existing and established customs and traditions, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need.”

Later in 2006, the Thomas More Law Center sued the city of San Francisco on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two Catholic residents of San Francisco, in order to establish that the resolution was an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of religion. The case came up before District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, a Carter appointee and former counsel for the National Organization of Women. Judge Patel issued her ruling in December.

Unfortunately, Patel lost no time in revealing her own anti-Catholic bias, claiming that the Board of Supervisors had acted “responsibly” in responding to all of the “terrible” things the Church was saying. Patel ruled that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provoked this debate, indeed may have invited entanglement, by its statement. This court does not find that our case law requires political bodies to remain silent in the face of this provocation.” The provocation, of course, was Cardinal Levada’s directive to Catholic agencies to follow Catholic teaching.

In response to arguments that the Constitution restricts government in this way because government has the power to coerce behavior, Judge Patel shot back: “You 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?” This statement, astonishing on its face, is even more astonishing coming from a judge who should know the difference between religious persuasion and state coercion.

Last week, the Thomas More Law Center appealed Judge Patel’s ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It will be very interesting to see what the appeals court has to say. These things take time, but a follow-up will eventually be posted here.

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