Catholics, Evangelicals Pledge to Ignore Gay Rights and Abortion Laws

John Tomasic

Human rights advocates stated that a pledge signed last Friday by religious leaders that they won’t abide by laws supporting gay marriage or abortion "perpetuates the fallacy that equality and religious liberty are incompatible and that civil rights are another burden on religious people."

Religious leaders signed a pledge Friday announcing that they won’t
abide by laws that support gay marriage or abortion. Denver Archbishop
Charles Chaput and Focus on the Family’s Founder James Dobson and
President Jim Daly joined 125 other conservative religious leaders from
Colorado in signing the so-called Manhattan Declaration. The declaration comes amid the contentious national health care debate that has featured Catholic Bishops prominently
and in the wake of hate crimes legislation passed earlier this fall
that drew staunch opposition from evangelical leaders, who argued it
might prevent them from preaching against gays. The signatories of the Declaration (pdf) vow to ignore any laws that contradict their worldview.

 

chaput

[L]et it be known that we will not comply with any edict that
compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate
abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia,
or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent,
and equal dignity of every member of the human family.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing
us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the
equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about
morality, marriage, and the family.

Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into
silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any
power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the
consequences to ourselves.

The list of Colorado signatories also included Fr. Joseph D Fessio,
founder and editor of Ignatius Press; Rev. Michael J Sheridan, Bishop
of the Archdiocese of Colorado Springs; and John Stonestreet, executive
director of Summit Ministries at Manitou Springs.

Andy Birkey at the Colorado Independent’s sister site in Minnesota reports that the Human Rights Campaign
immediately responded to the Declaration, pointing out that gay-rights
groups have gone to great pains to make laws that protect both gay,
bisexual and transgender people, as well as people of faith.

“This declaration simply perpetuates the fallacy that equality and
religious liberty are incompatible and that every step toward fairness
for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is another
burden on religious people. In reality, non-discrimination laws are
working all over this country, where religious freedom is existing
side-by-side with equal opportunity,” Harry Knox, director of the Human
Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, said in a statement.
“Advocates of LGBT equality have taken great pains in their legislative
efforts to ensure that the rights of religious organizations and people
under the First Amendment are protected. It is deeply cynical for the
authors of this document to paint themselves as victims because they
cannot have a free hand to discriminate, including with taxpayer
dollars.”

Roundups Politics

Trump Taps Extremists, Anti-Choice Advocates in Effort to Woo Evangelicals

Ally Boguhn

Representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to its shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the organization's president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance at a question-and-answer event on Tuesday.

Making a play to win over the evangelical community, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders on Tuesday for a question-and-answer event in New York City and launched an “evangelical advisory board” to weigh in on how he should approach key issues for the voting bloc.

The meeting was meant to be “a guided discussion between Trump and diverse conservative Christian leaders to better understand him as a person, his position on important issues and his vision for America’s future,” according to a press release from the event’s organizers. As Rewire previously reported, numerous anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ leaders—many of them extremists—were slated to attend.

Though the event was closed to the media, Trump reportedly promised to lift a ban on tax-exempt organizations from politicking and discussed his commitment to defending religious liberties. Trump’s pitch to conservatives also included a resolution that upon his election, “the first thing we will do is support Supreme Court justices who are talented men and women, and pro-life,” according to a press release from United in Purpose, which helped organize the event.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, told the New York Times that the business mogul also reiterated promises to defund Planned Parenthood and to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

In a post to its website, representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to their shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the group’s president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance. “I don’t believe anything like this has ever happened.” The post went on to note that Trump had also said he would appoint anti-choice justices to federal courts, and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Just after the event, Trump’s campaign announced the formation of an evangelical advisory board. The group was “convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America,” according to a press release from the campaign. Though members of the board, which will lead Trump’s “much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to be announced later this month,” were not asked to endorse Trump, the campaign went on to note that “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Much like the group that met with Trump on Tuesday, the presumptive Republican nominee’s advisory board roster reads like a who’s-who of conservatives with radical opposition to abortion and LGBTQ equality. Here are some of the group’s most notable members:

Michele Bachmann

Though former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once claimed that “women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care” while arguing against the ACA during a 2012 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, her views on the government’s role in restricting reproductive health and rights don’t square away with that position.

During a December 2011 “tele-town hall” event hosted by anti-choice organization Personhood USA, Bachmann reportedly falsely referred to emergency contraception as “abortion pills” and joined other Republican then-presidential candidates to advocate for making abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. During the event, Bachmann touted her support of the anti-choice group’s “personhood pledge,” which required presidential candidates to agree that:

I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.

Such a policy, if enacted by lawmakers, could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception. A source from Personhood USA told the Huffington Post that Bachmann “signed the pledge and returned it within twenty minutes, which was an extraordinarily short amount of time.”

Bachmann has also claimed that God told her to introduce a measure to block marriage equality in her home state, that being an LGBTQ person is “ part of Satan,” and that same-sex marriage is a “radical experiment that will have “profound consequences.”

Mark Burns

Televangelist Mark Burns has been an ardent supporter of Trump, even appearing on behalf of the presidential candidate at February’s Faith and Family Forum, hosted by the conservative Palmetto Family Council, to deliver an anti-abortion speech.

In March, Burns also claimed that he supported Donald Trump because Democrats like Hillary Clinton supported Black “genocide” (a frequently invoked conservative myth) during an appearance on the fringe-conspiracy program, the Alex Jones show. “That’s really one of my major platforms behind Donald Trump,” said Burns, according to the Daily Beast. “He loves babies. Donald Trump is a pro-baby candidate, and it saddens me how we as African Americans are rallying behind … a party that is okay with the genocide of Black people through abortion.”

Burns’ support of Trump extended to the candidate’s suggestion that if abortion was made illegal, those who have abortions should be punished—an issue on which Trump has repeatedly shifted stances. “If the state made it illegal and said the premature death of an unborn child constituted murder, anyone connected to that crime should be held liable,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal in April. “If you break the law there should be punishment.”

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), which, according to its mission statement, exists to “teach Christians worldwide who they are in Christ Jesus and how to live a victorious life in their covenant rights and privileges.” Outlining their opposition to abortion in a post this month on the organization’s website, the couple wrote that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. “As the author of life, God considers an unborn child to be an eternal being from the moment of its conception,” explained the post. “To deliberately destroy that life before birth would be as much premeditated murder as taking the life of any other innocent person.”

The article went on to say that though it may “seem more difficult in cases such as those involving rape or incest” not to choose abortion, “God has a plan for the unborn child,” falsely claiming that the threat of life endangerment has “been almost completely alleviated through modern medicine.”

The ministries’ website also features Pregnancy Options Centre, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Vancouver, Canada, that receives “financial and spiritual support” from KCM and “its Partners.” The vast majority of CPCs  regularly lie to women in order to persuade them not to have an abortion.

Kenneth Copeland, in a June 2013 sermon, tied pedophilia to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, going on to falsely claim that the ruling did not actually legalize abortion and that the decision was “the seed to murder our seed.” Copeland blamed legal abortion for the country’s economic woes, reasoning that there are “several million taxpayers that are not alive.”

Copeland, a televangelist, originally supported former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in the 2016 Republican primary, claiming that the candidate had been “called and appointed” by God to be the next president. His ministry has previously faced scrutiny about its tax-exempt status under an investigation led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) into six ministries “whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles.” This investigation concluded in 2011, according to the New York Times.

James Dobson

James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family (FoF), previously supported Cruz in the Republican primary, releasing an ad for the campaign in February praising Cruz for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” As Rewire previously reported, both Dobson and his organization hold numerous extreme views:

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the … Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Robert Jeffress

A Fox News contributor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Jeffress once suggested that the 9/11 attacks took place because of legal abortion. “All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children,” said Jeffress at Liberty University’s March 2015 convocation, according to Right Wing Watch. “God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won’t allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished.”

Jeffress spoke about the importance of electing Trump during a campaign rally in February, citing Democrats’ positions on abortion rights and Trump’s belief “in protecting the unborn.” He went on to claim that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Hillary Clinton were elected, “there is no doubt you’re going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.”

After Trump claimed women who have abortions should be punished should it become illegal, Jeffres rushed to defend the Republican candidate from bipartisan criticism, tweeting: “Conservatives’ outrage over @realDonaldTrump abortion comments hypocritical. Maybe they don’t really believe abortion is murder.”

As documented by Media Matters, Jeffress has frequently spoken out against those of other religions and denominations, claiming that Islam is “evil” and Catholicism is “what Satan does with counterfeit religion.” The pastor has also demonstrated extreme opposition to LGBTQ equality, even claiming that same-sex marriage is a sign of the apocalypse.

Richard Land

Richard Land, now president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, was named one of Time Magazine‘s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005 for his close ties with the Republican party. While George W. Bush was president, Land participated in the administration’s “weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.” Bush also appointed Land to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2002.

According to a 2002 article from the Associated Press, during his early academic career in Texas, “Land earned a reputation as a leader among abortion opponents and in 1987 became an administrative assistant to then-Texas Gov. Bill Clements, who fought for laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion” in the state.

Land had previously expressed “dismay” that some evangelicals were supporting Trump, claiming in October that he “take[s] that [support] as a failure on our part to adequately disciple our people.”

News Law and Policy

Mississippi Judge Won’t Block Law That Could Deny Services to Gay Couples

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A federal judge Monday refused to block a law that advocates say will enshrine discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

A federal judge in Mississippi on Monday refused to block a law that challengers say will deny wedding services to LGBTQ couples, all in the name of protecting “religious liberties.”

The Mississippi legislature passed HB 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” this year; the law is set to take effect July 1. The law allows denial, “based upon a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” of services or goods for the “celebration or recognition of any marriage.” This could also include pre-ceremony, post-wedding, and anniversary celebrations. The law specifically provides protection for people who believe that marriage is a commitment only between a man and a woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such a marriage, or that a person’s “immutable biological sex” is determined by anatomy and genetics at birth.

In May, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Mississippi sued to block the law, arguing it was unconstitutional. These attorneys say HB 1523 goes far beyond refusing wedding services by allowing county clerks to deny marriage licenses. They claim the law is likely to allow discrimination against same-sex couples who wish to adopt, and will encourage employee business practices that could include harmful bathroom policies.

But on Monday, Federal District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled that the plaintiffs, who include Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, a gay couple engaged to be married, failed to show evidence that they faced a “substantial threat of irreparable harm” if the law was not blocked immediately.

“Here, none of the plaintiffs are at imminent risk of injury,” Reeves wrote. “Alford and Thomas’s injury, if one exists, would arise when they apply for a marriage license. But they declare that they will apply for their license sometime within the next three years,” Reeves continued. “That is not imminent. The ACLU has the same problem. If a member of the ACLU intends to enter into a same-sex marriage in 2017, any injury is at least six months away.”

In response to the ruling, the ACLU filed a motion requesting Reeves reconsider the denial of the injunction, which would block the implementation of the law as trial proceeds. Meanwhile, the judge has ordered both attorneys for the State of Mississippi and the ACLU to begin working up a scheduling order to move the case toward trial.

A date for that trial has not yet been set.