US Bishops Defund Immigrant Rights Group Over LGBT Equality

At the same time that Catholic prelates like Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley make high-profile trips to the US-Mexican boarder and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops urges a more humane immigration policy, a grassroots Catholic group providing support to immigrants and day labors has lost its funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because of its tangential support for same-sex marriage.

The Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project takes no position on same-sex marriage itself, but is a member of the National Council of La Raza, which supports same-sex marriage. The organization said in a statement that it was a “finalist for a $75,000 grant but was told in a conversation on May 30 with several staffers of both Voz and CCHD that eliminating affiliation with NCLR would be the only way to receive the much needed funding.”

Voz refused to cut ties with NCLR, losing nearly a quarter of its annual budget of $310,000. Romeo Sosa, executive director of Voz, said, “CCHD forced the question of Marriage Equality into the grant process.”

As the domestic anti-poverty campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the CCHD will award some $14 million to anti-poverty programs in 2014-15. However, in recent years it has come under increasing pressure from conservative Catholic interest groups to refuse to fund groups with ties to any groups that support same-sex marriage or abortion rights.

The far-right American Life League, which opposes both abortion and contraception and was a major player in helping to bring an anti-Planned Parenthood mentality to the conservative right political coalition, formed the “Reform CCHD Now” coalition in 2009 with like-minded groups such as Human Life International. It publishes a CCHD grants report that scrutinizes all grantees for direct involvement “in activities contrary to Church teaching” or involvement “in coalitions promoting such activities” and pressures the USCCB to defund these groups.

As a result, in 2010 the CCHD added a new criteria to its grant guidelines stating:

Applicant organizations must not participate in or promote activities that contradict the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church and must in no way work against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ priorities to defend human life and dignity, strengthen family life and the institution of marriage, and foster diversity. For example, applicant organizations that support or promote same-sex marriage, discrimination, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, or punitive measures towards immigrants are not eligible for CCHD funding.

That year the organization pulled its $40,000 contribution to Street Roots, a nonprofit newspaper for the homeless, because its resource guide for the homeless listed Planned Parenthood as a place where the homeless could access HIV/AIDS testing, pregnancy testing and counseling, and birth control. The Portland Archdiocese demanded that the listing be deleted since some Planned Parenthood affiliates provide abortions, which Street Roots refused to do.

A report released last year by Faith in Public Life accused an “increasingly aggressive movement of Catholic culture warriors” of “[u]sing guilt by association and other tactics from the McCarthy-era playbook” to undermine the CCHD.

It said the American Life League and its allies are “putting at risk vital anti-poverty work and creating a culture of fear around community organizing” that “is draining resources from critical social justice advocacy at a time when more than 1 in 5 children live in poverty and income inequality is the most severe it has been since the 1920s.” It added that an “equally troubling impact is the potential chilling effect on the church’s involvement with diverse anti-poverty coalitions.”

 

Patricia Miller is the author of Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church. Her work on the intersection of sex, religion, and politics has appeared in The Nation, Ms., and Huffington Post. She was the editor of Conscience magazine and the editor-in-chief of the National Journal’s health care briefings.

  • cranefly

    It should be noted that the Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project seems to have acted with profound class. They were told that they needed to obey a directive that violated their ethics, or lose their funding. They didn’t cry about it to the Supreme Court, and they didn’t compromise for money, even though it would have been so easy. They just withdrew their grant application, and started a kickstarter that has raised around 1/10 of what they lost.

    When Burger King or JC Penny gets heat for supporting gay marriage, they get swamped with mainstream attention and probably wind up profiting all the more for it. This group does serious work for marginalized people, and yet supported gay rights at a serious cost. It’s pretty heroic.

  • melissia

    So I guess the church is doctrinally okay with pedophile priests raping children, then, since the “Reform CCHD Coalition” has no objections to that.