Does the San Francisco Board’s resolution virulently condemning the Catholic Church because of its moral teachings on homosexuality violate the Constitution’s prohibition of government hostility toward religion? That will be the issue argued before a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in San Francisco on Wednesday, July 16th at 9:30 a.m. PST.Thomas More Law Center attorney Robert Muise will present oral arguments urging the Court to reverse the decision of District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. Judge Patel, a Carter appointee and one time counsel for the National Organization for Women (NOW), ruled that the resolution did not violate the constitution because the Catholic Church invited the condemnation by publicly opposing adoptions by homosexual partners.
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.
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 Board’s resolution went so far as to urge the Archbishop of San Francisco and Catholic Charities of San Francisco to defy Church directives.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, observed, “Judge Patel attempted to rationalize the evocative rhetoric and venom of the resolution which are sad reminders of Catholic baiting by the Ku Klux Klan. Sadly, the ruling itself clearly exhibited hostility toward the Catholic Church. 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. ”
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.”
Muise stated, “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 the government to attack the Catholic Church. Their egregious abuse of power now has the backing of a lower federal court. This decision must be reversed. Unfortunately, all too often we see a double standard being applied in Establishment Clause cases.”
According to Catholic doctrine, 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. Such policies are gravely immoral and Catholic organizations must not place children for adoption in homosexual households.
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.”
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.”