Laurie Goodstein visits the ongoing "debate" if discriminating against LGBT people is an essential component of religious express, and whether LGBT discrimination is a constitutionally protected right. The New York Times chooses an unfortunate, and inaccurate frame for its headline: "For Bishops, a Battle Over Whose Rights Prevail." The implication being the Church has a "right" to state-funded social services contracts. If the state does not award a contract to any organization, have their "rights" have been violated? Cue the whining of the powerful, wealthy and entitled:
For the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, the outcome is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are now the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.I'll stop Bishop Paprocki right there.
“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services
This not about "tolerating" views.
This is all about the money.
I refer the Bishop to the preceding paragraph (emphasis mine):
But now most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois are closing down rather than comply with a new requirement that says they can no longer receive state money if they turn away same-sex couples as potential foster care and adoptive parents.
The heart of the matter is the Roman Catholic Church collects lots and lots of taxpayer dollars, in Illinois and across the country, to perform social services on the government's behalf, like placing kids in foster care and adoption. These are services paid for by all Americans, including LGBT citizens' dollars.
The Catholic Church wishes to retain its rights to dole out their taxpayer-funded services only to some of the people who are funding these services. Sorry, that's not fair.
Which was the experience of one person quoted in the article:
Tim Kee, a teacher in Marion, Ill., who was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his longtime partner, Rick Wade, tried to adopt a child, said: “We’re both Catholic, we love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. To add insult to injury, my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me.”
And despite their protestations this is a "religious freedom" issue for the Church, it's easy to conclude this issue is really all about the money for them as well.
These contracts are very big money-makers for the Church, from the Times (again emphasis mine):
Catholic Charities is one of the nation’s most extensive social service networks, serving more than 10 million poor adults and children of many faiths across the country. It is made up of local affiliates that answer to local bishops and dioceses, but much of its revenue comes from the government. Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).Of those 10 million people they serve, they wish retain the right to not serve any LGBT people.
But LGBT people pay taxes too. Actually, it turns out, more than their fair share, according to a recent CNN/Money magazine article. And LGBT people should have a right to obtain the services their tax dollars support. It really isn't that complicated.
And in fact in many jurisdictions, the Church could continue to fund discriminatory foster care and adoption services if the Church wished, just not subsidized by taxpayers. The Church would have to offer these services supported only by its own money. Oh, that's right, they're only willing to fund 3 percent of these endeavors with the Church's own money.
Apparently the Church's concern for children isn't so great they'd pay to fund placement services out of their own pocketbook. I guess that shouldn't surprise anyone, given the Church's record of concern for children.
It is truly sad to see the Catholic Church disengage itself from charitable endeavors in Illinois, and before in Massachusetts, and anywhere. But this is a choice they are making for themselves.
So they could fund the services themselves. Or they could relent, as a the Lutheran Church has done. Gene Svebakken, president and chief executive of the agency, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, has decided to abide by Illinois' directive, despite his Church's long-standing condemnation of gay people:
“We’ve been around 140 years, and if we didn’t follow the law we’d go out of business,” Mr. Svebakken said. “We believe its God-pleasing to serve these kids, and we know we do a good job.”
Society is evolving, but the Catholic Church is refusing to evolve with it. These states have chosen to recognize some of the basic civil rights of their LGBT citizens. They have also decided it is not legal or appropriate for a state to be funding discrimination against them.
Perhaps, someday the Catholic Church will catch up to the society that surrounds them. I hear they finally admitted Galileo was right about that crazy idea of the Earth orbiting the sun back in 1992.