By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com April 10 2012 12:20 PM ET
The leaders of the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry, the two largest organizations working to win marriage equality nationwide, sent a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asking the Church to cease its support of the National Organization for Marriage in the wake of revelations that the group employed divisive racial tactics.
The letter from HRC president Joe Solmonese and Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson is dated April 10 and addressed to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the church’s public policy arm. Their letter follows revelations last month that NOM methodically pursued a strategy that sought to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” and make “support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity,” as described in previously secret documents unsealed in a court case in Maine.
According to a news release from HRC accompanying the letter, the Catholic Church hierarchy and affiliated groups such as the Knights of Columbus have driven millions of dollars toward NOM and collaborated with the group against marriage equality in the states. NOM leadership including Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher identify as Catholics.
In the letter, Solmonese and Wolfson call on the Catholic Church to send a message against “race-baiting, ethnic exploitation, division, and anti-gay campaigns.” Recent polls show that majorities of lay American Catholics support civil marriage for same-sex couples. Civil rights groups including the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza have also denounced NOM’s tactics in recent weeks.
“It is hard to believe that the Catholic Church hierarchy, which professes to ‘promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind,’ would continue to funnel funds into, and align itself with, an organization that explicitly uses such toxic tactics to pit American against American, minority against minority, family member against family member,” wrote Solmonese and Wolfson. “The Knights of Columbus, to give just one example, has acknowledged pouring at least one million dollars into NOM,” they added.
Cardinal Dolan was also the subject of a letter addressed to church officials last week from a junior board executive committee of New York Catholic Charities. Joseph Amodeo, a gay Catholic and teacher of religious education in the New York archdiocese, resigned his position and criticized Cardinal Dolan for comments against same-sex couples and inaction toward pleas to assist homeless LGBT youth.
Read the full letter from Solmonese and Wolfson after the jump.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Presiden
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, Northeast
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Dear Cardinal Dolan:
On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry, the two largest organizations working to secure marriage equality in America, we are writing to ask that you and affiliated organizations such as the Knights of Columbus end your financial support and collaboration with the fringe group known as the National Organization for Marriage or NOM. Last week, HRC uncovered a series of documents that shed light on the racially and ethnically divisive strategies and tactics used by NOM.
The documents reveal that NOM’s key goals are to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks,” and to manipulate Hispanic communities by “making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity” and “to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of ‘Anglo’ culture.” Perhaps most shocking, NOM planned “to identify the children of gay parents willing to speak on camera,” essentially tricking minors into publicly criticizing their families.
Sadly, the evidence shows that the funding provided to NOM has been used to exploit people of color and the children of gay parents in this country as pawns in a political chess game. NOM’s attempt to manipulate these communities and “fan… hostility” has outraged fair-minded Americans and civil rights leaders all across the country. The NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the National Council of La Raza are just a few of the many national organizations condemning NOM and these poisonous strategies.
It is hard to believe that the Catholic Church hierarchy, which professes to “promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind,” would continue to funnel funds into, and align itself with, an organization that explicitly uses such toxic tactics to pit American against American, minority against minority, family member against family member. The Knights of Columbus, to give just one example, has acknowledged pouring at least one million dollars into NOM.
The truth is the great majority of Catholics support the freedom to marry. The Public Religion Research Institute recently found that 71 percent of American Catholics support civil marriage for same-sex couples. Increasingly, church-going Catholics question why hospitals, soup kitchens, and even parish churches are being closed for lack of funds at the same time their Church leadership is spending millions of dollars to divide families.
Freedom to Marry and HRC implore you to stop collaborating with, and to immediately stop funding, the National Organization for Marriage and such tactics. By doing so you would send a resounding message that race-baiting, ethnic exploitation, division, and anti-gay campaigns have no place in the Church, or in America.
President, Human Rights Campaign
President, Freedom to Marry