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Cardinal Francis George, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago, is receiving intense criticism and calls for his resignation after comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan.
The incident came after organizers of the Chicago gay pride parade moved next year's start time up from the traditional noon to 10 a.m., meaning it would go past one of the city's oldest Catholic churches when worshippers were attending Mass; the parade is always held the last Sunday in June. There had been problems at the 2011 parade because of overcrowding along the route, and organizers thought an earlier start would be a way to address it, but leaders of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church objected, saying they feared parishioners would be inconvenienced.
George discussed the controversy this week with a local television station, which Wednesday broadcast a clip of him saying, "You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism." Parade organizers agreed to move the start time back to noon, but outrage over George's comment lingers.
"Cardinal George has gone too far, and he should graciously apologize, and step down from his post," wrote Tracy Baim, editor of Chicago LGBT newspaper Windy City Times, in an editorial posted online Friday. She called the KKK comparison "vile," and she noted that the hate group demonstrated against the pride parade in its early years.
The national LGBT group Truth Wins Out is circulating an online petition calling for George's resignation and describing his statement as "backward and bigoted." The pro-gay Catholic group Equally Blessed issued a statement saying, "In expressing fears that a joyful, celebratory gay pride parade could erupt into anti-Catholic violence, Cardinal Francis George has demeaned and demonized LGBT people in a manner unworthy of his office," and Sharon Groves of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith Program said his "horrific comparison of the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan drives an unnecessary wedge between Catholics and the hierarchy." Find more reactions here.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese said critics of the cardinal should watch his interview, which will air in its entirety Christmas Day on Chicago's Fox affiliate. "Whether it was the best choice of analogy I don't know," she told the Chicago Tribune. "Taken out of context the meaning can be misinterpreted. I would suggest people read the whole interview."