Alex Blaze

Catholic Charities pull out of DC because of same-sex marriage

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 18, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Catholic charities, Catholic church, foster care, gay marriage, government, LGBT, marriage, marriage equality, smae-sex marriage

It doesn't count as an empty threat if they pull the trigger:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District rather than license same-sex couples, the first fallout from a bitter debate over the city's move to legalize same-sex marriage.[...]

The church and some experts said the city's measure has narrower exemptions for religious groups than other same-sex marriage laws across the country, particularly when it comes to requiring benefits for the same-sex partners of employees.

City officials knew of no other faith-based groups that said their city contracts were in jeopardy.

I do have to say I'm surprised - I thought they were just bluffing back when they threatened to pull out of so-called charity programs (it doesn't strike me as all that charitable to get a government contract to perform a task and then to perform it in exchange for money. Most people call that contracting). Not that it matters; their caseload (and district funding) was transferred to a Baptist charity* that doesn't seem to have a problem with providing those benefits:

Catholic Charities, which runs more than 20 social service programs for the District, transferred its entire foster-care program -- 43 children, 35 families and seven staff members -- to another provider, the National Center for Children and Families. Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), the D.C. Council member who chairs the Committee on Human Services, said he didn't know of any problems with the transfer, which happened Feb. 1.

In addition to foster care, the center runs programs in Montgomery County and the District for homeless families and victims of domestic violence.

The marriage bill, which was approved and signed in December, is expected to become law in the next couple of weeks if it clears a congressional review period.

Catholic Charities, which receives $20 million from the city, had sounded alarms in the run-up to the council vote, saying programs serving tens of thousands of people were in danger. Being forced to recognize same-sex marriage, church officials said, could make it impossible for the church to be a city contractor because Catholic teaching opposes same-sex marriage.

Well then so be it. The entire idea of paying churches as if they were contractors of the government and then allowing them to be exempt from government regulation was silly in the first place. They aren't supposed to proselytize with the money, but, as American Catholics insisted back during the debate on the Stupak amendment, money is fungible and tax payers should be sure that they're not even indirectly paying for something they disagree with. By that logic, giving a church funding to run a charity it would be doing anyway only means that they'll fund it less and move the money over to proselytizing, so taxpayers are paying for Catholic proselytizing.

And if they don't even have the basic decency to follow civil rights law, the same laws any secular contractor would be forced to follow, then they don't deserve government funds to do government work. If they really are so charitable, let them raise the money themselves to help children.

The article says that Catholic Charities is going to try to keep their other programs open by finding away around marriage law, like just not providing benefits to same-sex couples that they would offer opposite-sex couples:

Edward Orzechowski, president and chief executive of Catholic Charities, the archdiocese's social service arm, said the group is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage.

Asked if that meant looking at ways to avoid paying benefits to same-sex partners or ways to write benefits plans so as not to characterize same-sex couples as "married," Orzechowski said "both, and."

I don't know why they couldn't do that with their foster care program, so I'm guessing there's no real way to deny same-sex couples benefits and not run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Life's so complicated, but maybe the easy way out would be to just provide the extra two or three people health care and not complain about how it's a violation of their freedom to not be able to leave gay people without health coverage.

*Matt pointed out in the comments that the National Center for Children and Families isn't Baptist anymore. Here's their "Statement of Principle":

Our commitment to the mission of NCCF is informed and strengthened by our Judeo-Christian values and Baptist heritage.

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I don't think this is a bad thing. The catholic church gets less tax payer money now. Further, the catholic church's power in many ways relies on charity work. This is not to say that the church does good social work. They seem to do the least amount in order to still control the poor.

I think by getting the church out of a number of public institutions will diminish their power.

It's no longer a Baptist Charity. It started out as one. Now it is simply The National Center for Children and Families.

The rush to drop this and nothing else seems very odd. My guess is that they're leaving out something, perhaps some legal proceeding that was in the works regarding the foster care program, or maybe some abuses that someone was aware of happening.

My mom works for a Catholic hospital and they found a way to stay within the law and not offer "same-sex partner/spouse/etc" benefits. They restructured the basis for extending benefits so that each employee could designate one other adult, regardless of relationship to the employee, to be covered under their benefits.

Personally, I find it even more progressive than same-sex partner benefits and my life would be significantly better if my employer did that. The irony is that the hospital's only motivation was to be homophobic. It seems they'd rather abolish the role of marriage within employment than welcome same-sex couples into it. It makes me wonder if they'd be amenable to abolishing the role of marriage within government to achieve the same goal.

I agree that that's a better solution, but who knows if this diocese will or won't see even that solution as "promoting homosexuality" or something like that, since people can designate a same-sex lover. Does your mom's hospital pay for the partner's health coverage or do they just open up eligibility to the designated person?

Not that we know the whole story. There doesn't seem to be any reason for this same problem to have been posed in other programs they run.

They pay the same portion for the benefits designate that they used to pay for spouses. I just don't know what percentage that is.

And the thing is that they can designate a same-sex partner, and therefore are staying within the law, but they could also designate a cousin, a friend, a roommate, a grandmother, etc. That way they can still snub same-sex domestic partnerships or marriages by equating partners with friends.

My former employer did the same thing for certain benefits like funeral & sick leave, but not health insurance.

My question would be does this type of benefit resolve the problem of same sex couples having to pay "imputed income" benefits on insurance provided by their employer?

Religious organizations usually do a good job of running charities and have learned not to proseletyze in their charitable arm, so this is a little unusual. Normally the charity as a separate 501-3c number from the church. A few years ago the United Methodist Childrens Home in Atlanta got in trouble for firing employees for being gay and the other charities learned.

Those readers who are not Baptist may not realize that not all groups with "Baptist" in their name are Southern Baptist. They are not a single church under one leader as the Roman Catholics are under the pope. While the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest group, and the one that has caused a multitude of problems in its opposition to gay rights, there are many other Baptist denominations not affiliated with the SBC, including some that are liberal and many that are independent of any denominational attachment. Calling one's church "Baptist" means that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and baptism, as a demonstration of that personal faith, is accomplished by immersion in water. Infant dedication, may be conducted in Baptist churches but they are not baptized as is done in Catholic churches. It must be an individual's choice. Therefore, a "Baptist" charity is not necessarily affiliated with the SBC and may be well equipped to do what Catholic Charities has been doing.

I do not think a single dollar of public funds should go to a church-based activity. It is no more than pseudo-altruism with their religious dogma strings attached. And, while we're at it, churches have become pulpits for lobbying and political propaganda. That makes them political action committees that should be taxed. It's time to abolish subsidizing such things as Catholic "charities." They're not charities. They are businesses relying upon government subsidies for their existence.

Why should it surprise any one that a Catholic charity would pull out? Is that not the same same as their birth control method? "Just pull out!"

The most important issue is the children. Gay people can provide a stable safe home. Is the Catholic Church looking out for itself or the Children? Things change.

OK, what is the divorce rate among Catholics vs. same-sex couples?