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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 27, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 13
Pope to visit White House - DC Archbishop wants to take away protections for Gay students
Section One
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Pope to visit White House - DC Archbishop wants to take away protections for Gay students

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The White House announced on March 26 that Pope Francis will visit the Obamas on September 23 this year.

Meanwhile, Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, DC, urged Congress to repeal a DC ordinance protecting LGBT students at local religious schools.

President Obama visited the Vatican in March 2014, and invited Francis to come to the United States. According to the White House statement, the two leaders will discuss a number of issues, including 'caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.'

The Pope's itinerary has not yet been announced, and it is not certain what interaction he will have with Cardinal Wuerl.

Wuerl was one of the signatories to a March 20 letter to the U.S. Senate urging them to block a DC ordinance that would protect LGBT students from discrimination at religious schools operating in the city. Because Congress had oversight over the District of Columbia, local ordinances may be overturned by Congressional action.



The letter objects to the Human Rights Amendment Act approved by the DC City Council last year. The measure is an attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of association the letter charges.

The Archdiocese of Washington runs 139 Catholic parishes and 95 Catholic schools in DC and five counties in Maryland, whose students would be protected by the ordinance.

The Human Rights Amendment Act repeals a 1989 law passed by Congress known as the Armstrong Amendment. The amendment changed the DC Human Rights Act to exempt religious educational institutions from a provision in the act that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Under the Armstrong Amendment, religious schools like Catholic University may deny meeting space or other privileges to groups that engage in 'promoting, encouraging, or condoning any homosexual act, lifestyle, orientation or belief,' even when such privileges would normally be offered to other student groups.

Although the repeal of the Armstrong Amendment was passed by the DC Council and signed by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congress can block it by majority vote of both houses, if the President also signs the disapproval resolution. Wuerl's letter was urging Congress to do so.

It also calls on Congress to kill another bill approved by the DC City Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser - the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. That measure would prohibit DC employers from discriminating against employees based on their personal reproductive health choices, including a decision to have an abortion.

DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton joined city officials in strongly disputing claims that the two bills would infringe on religious freedoms or freedom of speech.

Wuerl joined other conservative religious groups in speaking out on the two DC bills after U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced resolutions of disapproval to kill the DC laws.

Wuerl may be familiar to some older SGN readers because in 1985 he was appointed auxiliary bishop in Seattle, taking over administrative duties from liberal Archbishop Thomas Hunthausen. Pope John Paul II relieved Hunthausen of many of his duties after local conservatives accused him of being pro-Gay, among other sins.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger investigated Hunthausen and recommended sending in Wuerl to re-establish orthodoxy. As Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger raised Wuerl to the office of Cardinal in 2010.

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