Major U.S. city officially condemns Catholic Church
Instructs members to defy 'Holy Office of Inquisition'
July 15, 2008
A San Francisco city and county board resolution that officially labeled the Catholic church's moral teachings on homosexuality as "insulting to all San Franciscans," "hateful," "defamatory," "insensitive" and "ignorant" will be challenged tomorrow in court for violating the Constitution's prohibition of government hostility toward religion.
Resolution 168-08, passed unanimously by the City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors two years ago, also accused the Vatican of being a "foreign country" meddling with and attempting to "negatively influence (San Francisco's) existing and established customs."
It said of the church's teaching on homosexuality, "Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors."
As WND reported, Resolution 168-08 was an official response to the Catholic Church's ban on adoption placements into homosexual couple households, issued by Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.
The board's resolution urged the city's local archbishop and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy the Vatican's instructions, concluding with a spiteful reminder that the church authority that issued the ban was known 100 years ago as "The Holy Office of the Inquisition."
The resolution also took a shot at Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco, saying, "Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear."
The anti-Catholic diatribe had been challenged in U.S. District Court on similar grounds, but District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled in favor of the city, saying, in essence, the church started it.
She wrote in her decision, "The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith provoked this debate, indeed may have invited entanglement" for instructing Catholic politicians on how to vote. This court does not find that our case law requires political bodies to remain silent in the face of provocation."
She ruled that the city's proclamation was not entangling the government in church affairs, since the resolution was a non-binding, non-regulatory announcement.
Since no law was enacted, she ruled, city officials – even in their official capacity as representatives of the government – can say what they want.
"It is merely the exercise of free speech rights by duly elected office holders," she wrote.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which is appealing the District Court decision on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two Catholic residents of San Francisco, disagrees with Patel's decision.
"Sadly, the ruling itself clearly exhibited hostility toward the Catholic Church," he said in a statement. "The judge in her written decision held that the Church 'provoked the debate' by publicly expressing its moral teaching, and that by passing the resolution the City responded 'responsibly' to all of the 'terrible' things the Church was saying."
Thomas More attorney Robert Muise will present oral arguments in the case tomorrow morning in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Our Constitution plainly forbids hostility toward any religion, including the Catholic faith," he said.
"In total disregard for the Constitution, homosexual activists in positions of authority in San Francisco have abused their authority as government officials and misused the instruments of the government to attack the Catholic Church. Their egregious abuse of power has now the backing of a lower federal court. … Unfortunately, all too often we see a double standard being applied in Establishment Clause cases," Muise said.
Thomas More attorneys argued in the District Court case that the "anti-Catholic resolution sends a clear message" that Catholics are "outsiders, not full members of the political community."
The cultural, and now political, straight-arm to adherents of the Christian faith in San Francisco has been increasingly public in the last two years. Just one week after the anti-Catholic resolution was passed, the San Francisco Board issued a similar resolution against a mostly evangelical group.
Following a gathering of 25,000 teens at San Francisco's AT&T Park as part of Ron Luce's Teen Mania "Battle Cry for a Generation" rally against the sexualization of America's youth culture by advertisers and media, the board spoke out formally again.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."
Openly homosexual California Assemblyman Mark Leno told protesters of the teen rally that though such religious people may be few, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."
The Chronicle also reported a San Francisco protester against the evangelical youth rally carried a sign that may sum up the sentiment: "I moved here to get away from people like you."
The Thomas More Law Center hopes the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide in the case of Resolution 1680-08 that even if a large portion of the community is at odds with a religion's views on homosexuality, the government cannot be used as a weapon to condemn religious faith.
Currently, as WND has reported, Colorado and Michigan are tackling the question of whether the Bible itself can be vilified as "hate speech" for it's condemnation of homosexuality, and Canada has developed human rights commissions, which have decided people cannot express opposition to homosexuality without fear of government reprisal.