In a move that observers call unusual, Minnesota’s Roman Catholic bishops this week are sending letters asking church members for donations to the campaign supporting an anti–marriage equality amendment to the state’s constitution.
“For many of the more than 400,000 Catholic households expected to get the letter, it marks the first time they've been asked by church leadership to make a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage, the chief group campaigning for passage of the marriage amendment Nov. 6,” reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The contributions will underwrite Minnesota for Marriage’s television commercials.
The solicitation is “unusual” in scope and specificity, but it does not appear to violate any laws restricting churches’ involvement in elections, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron in Ohio who often looks at the relationship of politics and religion.
“I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,” Green told the Star Tribune. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.”
The mailing, coordinated and funded by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, will cost $100,000, the paper reports. Catholic bodies, including the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, have been among the leading financial backers of the pro-amendment campaign. Twin Cities Catholic archbishop John Nienstedt and clergy members from a variety of faiths spoke in favor of the amendment at the state capitol last week.
However, numerous Catholics and adherents of other religions are against the amendment, noted officials with Minnesotans United for All Families, a coalition working to defeat the measure. The Reverend Grant Stevensen, faith leader for the group, released a statement saying many Catholics are “very concerned and hurt by the amount of money and energy the archdiocese is spending to further this divisive amendment. It’s obvious the Catholic Church is incredibly divided over this amendment, and a letter like this is only going to further isolate and pull Catholics apart.”