The Catholic Church is funneling unprecedented dollar amounts into the four states where marriage equality is on the ballot this fall – Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington – and in many cases, parishioners may not even be aware that their dollars are being used to fund discrimination, according to a new report by the Human Rights Campaign.
The HRC report finds that the Church has spent at least $1.1 million as part of its broader effort to deny gay and lesbian couples committed couples the right to marry.
In addition, a close ally of the Church and past co-conspirator, the National Organization for Marriage, has spent nearly $1.4 million on the four ballot measures. In the aggregate, the Church and NOM are the single largest funders of discrimination, responsible for funding nearly 60 percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington.
A significant portion of the Catholic-affiliated funding — more than $640,000 — comes from the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization within the Church, which has an established history dating back to 2005 of using their money to fight marriage equality, said the HRC.
Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations working toward equality for LGBT people, released a separate report called “The Strong Right Arm of the Bishops: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Equality Funding.”
According to the study, Knights of Columbus has spent more than $15.8 million fighting against the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.
In Minnesota, the campaign to support a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has received more than $180,000 from Catholic dioceses across the nation. The Knights of Columbus also have made sizable contributions in Maryland and Washington State – contributing $250,000 in each state to fight November ballot initiates that would legalize same-sex marriage.
“The Catholic Church hierarchy has positioned itself as the leading religious organization funding discrimination against LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“Perhaps most disturbing is the number of local parishes redirecting the hard-earned dollars of its members in the name of discrimination. The majority of Catholics support equality for LGBT people – they want their dollars funding things like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and domestic violence programs; not discrimination against people several states away.
“The Church hierarchy owes the laity an explanation as to why they are spending this much money on discrimination, and at what cost to other crucial Church programs.”
The anti-LGBT activity of the Church’s hierarchy stands in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics.
A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, polling indicates marriage equality is one of the least important issues Catholics are currently concerned with. That same poll, from Belden Russonello, found that 83 percent of Catholics feel their bishops should not influence their vote.
The report, available at www.hrc.org/catholicreport, breaks down publicly reported in-kind and cash expenditures from the Church hierarchy and the Knights of Columbus to the four ballot states.
In Minnesota, the Church has funded over 50 percent of the effort to write discrimination into the state constitution – spending over $608,000. That figure includes significant investments from the Knights of Columbus, as well as thousands of dollars from small parishes all across the country.
The hefty financial investments from the Catholic Church come as bishops in some of the largest faith communities in the country speak out with increasing frequency against LGBT people.
In San Francisco, the newly appointed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was one of the chief architects of Proposition 8. Under his guidance, Catholic organizations in California led the charge in financing the Proposition 8 campaign, the 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
In Newark, N.J., Archbishop John J. Myers has called on supporters of marriage equality to abstain from receiving Communion. And in Minneapolis-St. Paul, parishioners have walked out of services as pastors read letters against marriage equality from Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.