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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 7, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 36
WA Catholic Bishops double down on R-74
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WA Catholic Bishops double down on R-74

New pastoral letter urges Catholics ?to reject marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Washington's four Catholic bishops have issued a new statement once again urging the faithful to reject Referendum 74.

Described as a 'pastoral letter' - meant to go out to all Catholics in Washington - the statement is signed by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain; his auxiliary bishop, Eusebio Elizondo; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima; and Bishop Blasé J. Cupich of Spokane.

In January, the bishops issued a similar pastoral letter urging Catholics to oppose the Marriage Equality Act, which was then still pending in the state legislature.

After the law was passed with support from a number of Catholic legislators, and signed into law by Catholic Gov. Christine Gregoire, Archbishop Sartain issued a letter asking individual churches to collect signatures to put the new law before voters. Several Seattle parishes refused to participate, including the archbishop's own cathedral, St. James.

Bishop Tyson recently clashed with state PDC (Public Disclosure Commission) officials over his plan to collect money for Preserve Marriage Washington, the anti-equality coalition, during Mass. The PDC ruled that if the church or its officials collected the money and then passed it on to the coalition, this would constitute illegal 'bundling' under state law.

Tyson's spokesperson, Monsignor Robert Siler, told SGN that 'it is our intent to follow the state's campaign election law,' but as of September 4, the diocese still did not have a fundraising plan that satisfied the PDC.

PDC spokesperson Lori Anderson said that since the latest plan still relied on a church volunteer to collect the money, it did not satisfy the requirements of state law.

'The campaign needs to designate a volunteer, not the church,' she said. Anderson said the PDC has spoken to attorneys for Preserve Marriage and the Washington State Catholic Conference, and she added that the PDC would contact them again to clarify the rules.

SGN invited the Yakima diocese to comment on its fundraising plans for this story, but it had not replied by press time.

ANTI-GAY 'BIAS' ADMITTED In their latest letter, the bishops begin almost apologetically by acknowledging 'bias, unjust discrimination and personal rejection' faced by LGBT people. While saying they wish to be 'sensitive to this suffering,' the bishops then reaffirm that Gay and Lesbian couples are not entitled to marry.

SGN asked the archdiocese to explain how it proposed to rectify the discrimination described in their letter without legislation that guarantees equality, but no answer was forthcoming by press time.

In their letter, the bishops go on to charge - falsely - that approval of R-74 would make them legally liable for discrimination if they taught Catholic doctrine.

'[T]he legal separation of marriage from procreation would have a chilling effect on religious liberty and the right of conscience,' the bishops claim.

'Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers. No institution or individual could propose that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of discrimination.'

In fact, the state's Marriage Equality Act, which R-74 asks voters to approve or reject, says explicitly, 'A regularly licensed or ordained minister or priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action based on a refusal to solemnize or recognize any marriage under this section.

'No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any religious organization on the refusal of a person associated with such religious organization to solemnize or recognize a marriage under this section.'

SGN also asked the archdiocese to explain the bishops' claim that '[r]ecent attacks on churches, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that express their conscientious objection to the redefinition of marriage underscore the danger.'

Once again, however, no clarification was received by press time.

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