Freedom Through the Eyes of Bishops and Filmmakers

The U.S. Catholic Bishops launch their second annual “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign this week with a Friday night mass celebrated by Archbishop William Lori, who chairs the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. “This is something we do as lovers of our country,” Lori says, “as lovers of the American experiment in limited government.”

In a Q&A published in the official newspaper of the Baltimore archdiocese, Lori makes it clear that in addition to their dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s accommodations in the HHS mandate on contraception in insurance coverage, the bishops are worried about Supreme Court decisions that will be handed down this month in marriage equality cases on California’s Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Lori rejects the notion that equality in civil marriage is a form of accommodating pluralism, saying “It’s a funny kind of pluralism that doesn’t make room for Christianity and Catholic values. For genuine pluralism, we would have complete freedom to exercise our mission according to our own rights.” In other words, to Lori and his colleagues, pluralism, like religious liberty, is defined on their terms, and requires exempting them and anyone else from anti-discrimination laws and other public policies they say run counter to their faith.

A different kind of freedom celebration also kicks off this week: Frameline 37: the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. The festival features a number of religion-themed films not likely to be endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In fact, there are 22 films tagged by festival organizers as having religious or spiritual themes. Among them:

Joy: Portrait of a Nun profiles Sister Missionary P. Delight and other members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the San Francisco-based performance art / political activism / social service troupe.

In the Name Of is a Polish movie about a Catholic priest wrestling with sexual temptations. It won the Teddy award for best LGBT-themed movie at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. On the festival website, producer Peter L. Stein writes, “In the Name Of is a touching exploration of the boundaries of compassion within church and society. It asks, Who will care for the least among us? Who deserves to love and be loved?”

Two documentaries on being gay and MuslimI Am Gay and Muslim, from the Netherlands, follows several young men in Morocco, while Chuppan Chupai, from Denmark, follows four LGBT Pakistanis living under the country’s harsh laws against homosexuality.

The New Black follows activists and clergy who are working within African American churches and communities to promote support for LGBT equality.

Families are Forever is a short documentary about the journey of devoted Mormon parents to accept their young teen gay son. Follow the link to watch the trailer, which includes moving clips of Jordan and his parents struggling to come to terms with the messages they sent and he received from the church’s pro-Prop 8 activism. The film is one of a series being produced by the Family Acceptance Project of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute at San Francisco State University.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.