In its brief filed last week with the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Thomas More Law Center urged the court to reverse a federal judge's ruling that an anti-Catholic resolution of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was constitutionally justified because the Church opposed adoptions by homosexual couples. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, a President Carter-appointee and one-time counsel for the National Organization for Women (NOW), ruled that the Board resolution condemning Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality and urging the Archbishop of San Francisco and Catholic Charities of San Francisco to defy Church directives does not violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national Christian legal advocacy group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is appealing the ruling on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two Catholic residents of San Francisco. Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, observed, "Judge Patel clearly exhibited hostility toward the Catholic Church. During oral argument and in her written decision she claimed 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. This judge attempted to rationalize the evocative rhetoric and venom of the resolution which are sad reminders of Catholic baiting by the Ku Klux Klan."
Just one week after the anti-Catholic resolution, the San Francisco Board voted — again unanimously — to condemn some 25,000 Evangelical teens who gathered in the city to express their opposition to homosexual conduct. Openly gay San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno said the teenage group is "obnoxious" and "disgusting" and should not be tolerated. He told the Christian group to "get out of San Francisco."
Thompson remarked, "The policy of San Francisco is one of totalitarian intolerance of Christians of all denominations who oppose homosexual conduct. My concern is that if the judge's ruling is allowed to stand, it will further embolden the San Francisco Board in its anti-Christian attacks."
The anti-Catholic resolution, adopted March 21, 2006, alludes to the Vatican as a "foreign country" meddling in the affairs of the City and describes the Church's moral teaching and beliefs as "insulting to all San Franciscans," "hateful," "insulting and callous," "defamatory," "absolutely unacceptable," "insensitive and ignorant." The resolution calls on the local Archbishop to "defy" the Church's teachings and describes Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for safeguarding the doctrine on the faith and morals of the Church throughout the Catholic world, as "unqualified" to lead.
Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney handling this matter, observed, "Our constitution plainly forbids hostility toward any religion, including the Catholic faith. 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 government to attack the Catholic Church. Their egregious abuse of power now has the backing of a federal judge."
Catholic doctrine proclaims that allowing children to be adopted by homosexuals would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. According to Church authority, such policies are gravely immoral and Catholic organizations must not place children for adoption in homosexual households. Accordingly, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has directed Catholic organizations to adhere to the Church's moral teaching.
The Law Center's lawsuit claimed that the City's anti-Catholic resolution violated the First Amendment, which "forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs, or of religion in general." The Law Center argued that the "anti-Catholic resolution sends a clear message to Plaintiffs and others who are faithful adherents to the Catholic faith that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community and an accompanying message that those who oppose Catholic religious beliefs, particularly with regard to homosexual unions and adoptions by homosexual partners, are insiders, favored members of the political community."
In her written opinion upholding the resolution against the Law Center's constitutional challenge, the federal judge defended the City by essentially claiming that the Church invited the attack by publicly expressing its teaching on moral issues. The judge stated, "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provoked this debate, indeed may have invited entanglement, by its [doctrinal] statement. This court does not find that our case law requires political bodies to remain silent in the face of this provocation."
Thompson commented, "Even more remarkable was the judge's questioning during oral argument. When Mr. Muise explained to the judge that the constitution is a restriction on government because the government has the power of the law to coerce behavior, the judge responded coldly, ‘You saying, the power to condemn someone to Hell isn't more important to some people than being condemned by the state to have to pay a fine or go to jail?' Mr. Muise, who was stunned by this comment, responded by explaining that the Church doesn't condemn anyone to Hell, only God has that authority. To which the judge wryly stated, ‘I'm glad to hear that.'"