September 18, 2019 (Lepanto Institute) — The following is written by Hon. Robert Marshall, former member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
On October 30, 2008, Barack Obama said, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” The legal policy changes wrought under the Obama Administration paved the way for the so-called Equality Act, HR 5, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 17, 2019 by a vote of 236 to 173. The Equality Act would fundamentally and radically alter Civil Rights Law to prohibit “discrimination” on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” in the same way racial discrimination is prohibited. Analysis by pro-life and pro-family organizations, as well as the U.S. Catholic Bishops, have warned that the Equality Act would:
- Require faith-based hospitals, doctors and nurses to participate in and/or to perform or assist with abortions or lose their medical licenses;
- Require tax funding of all abortions without restrictions;
- Mandate that any entity that provides health care for pregnancy and childbirth be required to provide abortion as a “related medical condition”;
- Force women to share private, intimate spaces with men who “identify” as female including in bathrooms, lockers, schools, hospitals, prisons, gyms, military barracks and homeless shelters;
- Disallow Catholic and private school single sex sports teams from competing against public school sports teams, which will no longer be permitted to have “discriminatory” single sex teams;
- Decertify Catholic and Christian schools from satisfying state compulsory attendance laws if they refuse to adopt LGBTQ policies, treating religious schools as “hate groups” comparable to the Ku Klux Klan;
- Forbid groups like the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities and Christian non-profits from receiving community block grants from local governments for housing for the disabled or seniors unless they accommodate the LGBTQ agenda including hiring those who identify as homosexual or transgender;
- Prohibit Catholic schools and parishes from obtaining construction loans from federally chartered banks or savings institutions unless the schools and churches implement the LGBTQ agenda including hiring active homosexual and transgender teachers in same sex “marriages”;
- Remove children from the legal custody of their parents if they try to prevent their minor children from taking cancer-causing, puberty-blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones recommended by school counselors or provided by social welfare agencies;
- End women-only or men-only shelters serving drug addicts, the battered, and the homeless;
- Decertify foster care and adoption agencies which do not place children with homosexual partners;
- Require small businesses owned by Catholics to promote and affirm LGBTQ sexual behavior or face fines and/or loss of their business licenses;
- Remove the tax-exempt status of Catholic churches and agencies if they fail to “celebrate” same-sex “weddings.” The Equality Act would classify churches as “public accommodations” (like hotels and restaurants), prohibited from denying services on account of sexual orientation, in the same manner services cannot now be denied on account of race.
Several Republican members of the Judiciary Committee tried to blunt the coercive effects of HR 5, by proposing amendments that would have prevented biological females from being forced to compete against biological males in any sporting event; protected health care providers from being forced to affirm the self-professed gender identity of an individual; protected parental rights to direct the medical care of their children against efforts to facilitate changing the sexual identity of their children; and restored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s conscience and religious liberty protections. All of these amendments were defeated on straight party line votes, proving that proponents of the Equality Act intend to require every policy the amendments sought to prohibit.
The “Equality Act” is one egregious example of sexual progressives stepping up efforts to exclude from the public square those who live by the moral teachings of Moses and Jesus. Anyone who disagrees or questions the LGBTQ agenda, abortion and “reproductive rights” is described as guilty of depravity, bigotry and hatred, despite our following a faith based on loving God and loving our neighbor.
LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer) advocates preach “tolerance” but one prominent homosexual advocate, Frank Bruni, wrote in the April 3, 2015, NY Times: “… debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices … Mitchell Gold, a prominent … gay philanthropist … told me that church leaders must be made ‘to take homosexuality off the sin list.’ …”
Multi-millionaire leftist donor Tim Gill, who developed Quark Express, a desktop publishing program, announced his jarring diktat, “We’re going to punish the wicked,” in the June 2017 Rolling Stone magazine. Gill considers anyone, including Christians, who disagrees with LGBTQ policies “the wicked.” Mary Bonauto, the attorney, “married” to a woman, who argued the Obergefell same-sex “marriage” case, said, “We would not be where we are without Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation.”
Catholic Members of Congress Vote for the Equality Act
All 74 Catholic Democrat members of the House who were present, including Catholic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voted in support of HR 5. Six Catholic Republican congressmen voted “yes,” while 42 Catholic Republican congressmen voted “no.” The Senate companion bill, S. 788, has been co-sponsored by ten Catholic Democrats and one Catholic Republican. (Only four of the Catholic Republican senators and one Catholic Democrat senator have not cosponsored the so-called Equality Act.)
The Catholic bishops wrote a letter to Congress indicating their opposition to the Equality Act on March, 2019, stating, “The Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence … the Act also fails to recognize the difference between the person — who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it — and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications.”
It appears there has been no news coverage of bishops fraternally correcting those Catholic congressmen who voted for the Equality Act, continuing a lack of public criticism allowing Catholic politicians to publicly vote for and speak in favor of this Act and other morally harmful legislation with no public scrutiny or ecclesiastical penalty.
Lawyers working for the United States Catholic Conference and various dioceses appear to be more protective of the Church’s tax-exempt status than of the moral principles the Church is ordained to uphold. This is puzzling considering that one of the questions St. Peter will obviously not ask American Catholic bishops in the next life is, “How well did you protect the tax-exempt status of the Church?”
In 2020, if Democrats maintain the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and win the majority of the U.S. Senate, and if President Donald Trump is defeated in part because of public criticism by the U.S. bishops, it is almost certain that the grossly misnamed “Equality Act” will become law with all of its destructive consequences to the Church and society.
The very tax-exempt status the Church has carefully sought to protect will be significantly eroded if not totally eliminated, financially impacting parishes, schools, hospitals, food pantries, group homes, shelters, soup kitchens, adoption agencies, etc.
Believing that the First Amendment will protect Catholic programs assumes that the Constitution is a self-executing document. Sexual progressives and liberal lawyers will almost surely use the Fourteenth Amendment to claim they are merely seeking “equal protection” and freedom from discrimination.
Furthermore, the Equality Act removes the protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). The Judiciary Committee Report for the Equality Act states: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”
The 1993 RFRA law was sponsored by then Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) but now Senator Schumer is a co-sponsor of the Senate’s Equality Act, S. 788. Relying on Mr. Schumer to protect religious liberty is expecting the fox to guard the hen house.
Duties of a Bishop
Are our bishops, when confronted with obviously anti-Catholic legislation, required to correct politicians, especially Catholic politicians, who support such policies, or is private criticism enough? In October, 2004, Pope St. John Paul II met in Rome with representatives of the U.S. Catholic bishops where he spelled out the bishops’ duties: “remember that your sacred responsibility to teach, sanctify and govern cannot be surrendered to anyone else: it is your personal vocation.”
Regarding life, marriage and God’s creation of “male and female,” much more could be taught through pastoral letters, Prayers of the Faithful offered during Mass, notices in Church bulletins, letters read at Mass, articles in Catholic newspapers and social media as well as messages publicizing the Sacrament of Reconciliation and retreats to offer hope and forgiveness to reach those who have undergone abortion. Some of the most powerful witnesses in defense of human life have been open about their past abortion wounds.
If there is reluctance to speak about the sacredness of human life and the evil of abortion from the pulpit, I offer the experience of one Christian pastor who feared that if he mentioned abortion in a sermon, it could hurt the post-abortive women in his congregation. It wasn’t until after he counseled numerous distraught women from his church, that he realized he could have spared these women deep suffering if he had spoken the truth earlier. He subsequently changed his thinking and his sermons.
Catholics cannot obtain much helpful information about current moral issues from the secular media. Lay organizations that work in the pro-life and pro-family arena can help but they cannot reach every parishioner. Catholics needs our church, at the parish level, to proclaim correct teaching on these moral issues being debated in the public square if we are to truly become the light of the world, the salt of the earth and the leaven of society.
Informing Catholics in the pew about proposed unjust laws that will impact their church, their families and society should not be considered controversial or “political.” Sharing information in the form of petitions, pulpit announcements, form letters, and educational flyers would definitely help motivate and educate Catholics to oppose harmful legislation and support helpful legislation.
The Book of Matthew 18:15–17 states: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.”
Thankfully, several cardinals and bishops, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bishop Thomas Daly, Archbishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, and others understand the scandal and confusion caused by “Catholic” legislators who publicly support egregious policies contrary to our faith. They have fraternally corrected those who violate serious moral principles, with several legislators being warned that they should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion.
Rev. Franklin Graham Challenges Cardinal Dolan to Excommunicate Governor Andrew Cuomo
In January 2019, prominent Evangelical Protestant, Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the renowned Rev. Billy Graham, sent “tweets” to N.Y. Cardinal Dolan urging him to excommunicate “Catholic” N.Y. Governor Cuomo for signing and celebrating the third-trimester abortion law.
On Fox News, Cardinal Dolan responded that excommunication “would be counter-productive.” Cardinal Dolan’s spokesman pointed out that San Diego Bishop Leo Maher in l989 barred Catholic State Assemblywoman Lucy Killea from receiving Communion. She later appeared on the Phil Donohue Show to explain that she would not change her Faith or her abortion position. Killea won a seat in the California state senate. However, Cardinal Dolan cannot legitimately assume that Bishop Maher’s refusal to allow Killea to receive Communion in 1989 was responsible for Killea’s election because Killea already had high name identification from serving 5 years on the San Diego City Council and almost 14 years in the California Assembly. Bishop Maher’s action was necessary to teach both Killea and the faithful the seriousness of the crime of abortion. Prudence is a virtue, but possible political ramifications should not trump proclaiming truth.
In the past, some American bishops had publicly excommunicated Catholics who opposed the bishops’ efforts to racially integrate Catholic schools. Sadly, there are too few bishops willing to take this step over the civil rights injustice of our age, taking the lives of unborn children without due process. If a governor of a state can pave the way for even more killings of innocent unborn children and remain a member of the Catholic Church, the laity intuits that the crime of abortion cannot be a serious infraction. This reality, I believe, has given Catholics in the pew a green light to vote for Democrats who support abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and assisted suicide.