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High Court Declines Catholic Suit

High Court Declines Catholic Suit


The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear a case in which a group of Catholics accused the city of San Francisco of anti-Catholic stances that violated the constitutional mandate of government neutrality toward religion.

At issue was a nonbinding resolution passed by the city's board of supervisors in 2006 that condemned a church policy preventing Catholic-affiliated social service agencies from placing adoptive children with gay couples, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cardinal William Levada (pictured, right), the former archbishop of San Francisco and head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a decree prohibiting such placements by Catholic Charities. He said that allowing same-sex couples to adopt children "would actually mean doing violence to these children."

In response, the board passed a resolution, sponsored by then-supervisor Tom Ammiano (pictured, left), himself Catholic and gay, calling the order "hateful and discriminatory" as well as urging the local Catholic Charities branch and Levada's successor as San Francisco archbishop, George Niederauer, to disregard it. Catholic Charities, however, stopped providing adoption services altogether.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, headed by William Donohue, and several individual Catholics filed a federal lawsuit calling on the city to repeal the resolution, which they said violated the U.S. Constitution's neutrality requirement. The ninth circuit U.S. court of appeals rejected the suit last year, and the Supreme Court declined Monday, without comment, to hear a further appeal.

Ammiano, now a California state assemblyman, told the Chronicle the resolution targeted not the church in general but "statements that are ignorant, particularly when it comes to the lesbian [and] gay community and children." Donohue, meanwhile, said the suit, though dismissed, had the effect of lowering the "level of vitriol and hostile remarks from the board of supervisors," whom he described as "notorious anti-Catholic bigots."

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