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Catholic Marriage Amendment Donations "Unprecedented," Says Report

Gay-rights group says church leaders going against believers' opinions.

A new report from gay-rights campaigners attacks Catholic leaders for funneling "unprecedented" sums of money into Minnesota's marriage amendment battle and claims the clergy are doing so against the will of the laity. Church leaders countered, saying the charges were "shameful attempts to mislead Catholics."

“The Catholic Church hierarchy has positioned itself as the leading religious organization funding discrimination against LGBT people,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin said in a written statement publicizing the report.

Catholic dioceses and Knights of Columbus chapters from around the country have contributed over half of the $1.2 million raised by groups trying to pass the amendment, which would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution, reflecting current state law.

The HRC report cites a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute that found 52 percent of American Catholics support legalizing same-sex marriage, and 64 percent support same-sex civil unions, to argue that Catholic leaders are going against the wishes of their flocks in supporting ballot measures across the country that ban same-sex marriage.

That same poll, though, found that only 37 percent of Catholics who attend church regularly think Catholic doctrine is too conservative on the issue of homosexuality. The survey quizzed 3,000 Americans ages 18 and over both landlines and cell phones, and had a margin of error of plus or minus two percent.

Church leaders' anti-gay stance has rubbed many Southwest Minneapolis Catholics raw—some say they have left their parishes over the issue, and several parishoners in one church staged a walk-out when a letter from St. Paul's Archbishop John Nienstedt explaining his opposition to same-sex marriage was read out.

According to Catholic officials, though, the Church's donations are hardly a secret effort by a tiny cabal.

A spokesperson for the commitee set up by Minnesota's Catholic bishops to push the marriage amendment blasted the HRC report in an interview with the Star-Tribune, saying its money was collected seperately from normal church fundraising efforts, and donors were aware their cash was going to the marriage amendment fight.

The effort is part of "shameful attempts to mislead Catholics and the public about the source of the Church’s contributions to defense of marriage campaigns cheapens our political discourse and represents nothing more than a desperate political tactic," said Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota Catholic Conference and treasurer for its political-action organization.

Church leaders have also appealed directly to Minnesota Catholics to fund television ads in support of their cause.

The HRC report also charged that Catholic contributions to ballot initiatives in Minnesota and three other states were "unprecedented" in their size compared to past fights seeking to ban same-sex marriage through the ballot box. For example, in 2009, the Church spent around $550,000 in money from local parishes and from dioceses from around the country in a successful effort to override the state legislature's legalization of same-sex marriage.

Massive spending by religious groups in ballot initiatives like Minnesotas is not new, though. The Mormon Church officially spent only $190,000 in pushing California's Proposition 8, but individual Mormons contributed around $40 million to pass the measure at leaders' urging. Church leaders also organized massive numbers of volunteers whose donated time fueled the passage of Prop 8.

According to Patch's analysis of campaign finance documents, religious groups and institutions have donated around $0.40 in every $1 collected by groups trying to pass Minnesota's marriage amendment, with Catholics making up the lion's share of those funds.

By contrast, while many religious leaders have been very vocal in their opposition to the marriage amendment, religious groups and institutions have only contributed $0.01 of every dollar collected by pro-gay groups. Still, anti-amendment groups raked in significant contributions from some religious groups. The umbrella group representing all Congregational churches in Minnesota gave around $20,000, putting the group on the same level as Minnesota's major dioceses. Southwest Minneapolis' First Universalist Church gave just over $7,000, the second-largest contribution to the by any single church on either side.

Michael October 19, 2012 at 08:15 PM
This is a biased article. An astute reader can detect the slant toward the homosexual agenda. It mentions people "leaving the Church because of the stand against homosexual marriage" and quotes the HRC as if they were unbiased experts... good grief. What about former Catholics who are impressed by the Church's admirably firm and Biblical stance against homosexual "marriage"? What about those who believe that it is for the good of society that the natural definition of marriage remain intact, that of one man, one woman? This is not bigotry, it is biology. This is not discrimination, this is definition. Watch this... it explains it better than I can, on a secular level that even an atheist can understand... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cQCi4ehXkg
James Sanna (Editor) October 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Actually, no. I did not quote the HRC as "unbiased experts." If you'd taken the time to read the story, you'll notice that I treat both sides with equanimity, and I independently verified the fundraising statistics cited by the HRC using campaign finance documents. In my reporting on this issue, I have found many, many Southwest Minneapolis Catholics who are upset by the amendment, thus why I feel comfortable making the assertion that the amendment "has rubbed many Southwest Minneapolis Catholics raw." I haven't done stories on Southwest Minneapolis Catholics "who are impressed by the Church's admirably firm and Biblical stance against homosexual 'marriage'," as you say, because I haven't been able to find any yet, despite keeping a careful watch out for them. As soon as I find them, though, I will absolutely do a story on them. If you know any who would be willing to speak to the media, I would greatly appreciate any help you could provide in introducing me to them. Please have them email me at james.sanna@patch.com.
heather golant October 24, 2012 at 06:57 PM
What about the simple separation of church and state? Should some people's religious views shape the laws of the government? It seems to me that religion itself has led to so much prejudice. For Christians, do we really think that God himself wrote the Bible? It was men who wrote those stories. I say men, and not women because women weren't allowed to be educated. All of these prejudices are the result of human behavior, not God's will. Not letting people get married is just another example.

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