When Civil Rights Advancement Means Going Hungry

November 16, 2009

Long have religious institutions stood in the way of civil rights advancement in America. They fought against the women’s rights movement in the 1920s, they fought against voting rights and desegregation in the 1960s, they fought and still fight against women’s reproductive rights, and now they are continuing that crusade against the LGBT movement.


A few days ago, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington announced that if the DC City Council approves its landmark same-sex marriage law, they will be forced to suspend all social service programs in the District. Currently, the Church provides adoption, healthcare, and homeless shelter services to tens of thousands of people in the DC metropolitan area. Essentially, this amounts to the Archdiocese telling the City Council, “If you approve an expansion of civil rights, we will let innocent people starve.” Of course, the church would never bill it as such. Their explanation for this abrupt threat is that the bill as currently written would force them to obey city laws against discrimination of individuals based on sexual orientation. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem,” says Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.


However, that is not what the law says. The law actually says that an organization cannot turn a couple away from adopting a child because they do not conform to a narrow view of what a loving family should constitute. It says that groups cannot refuse to feed a man in their soup kitchen because he is gay. It says that homeless shelters cannot refuse a bed to a homeless individual who happens to be transgender. Thus the city is not saying that the Catholic Archdiocese must be secular in the provision of their social services, they are simply insisting that they be inclusive of everyone in need of help.


Apparently though it is a greater sin to not discriminate against gays than to let the homeless starve.

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