Thursday, June 7, 2012

Archbishop Lori Spins Religious Freedom Initiative as Non-Partisan: Reality-Based Catholics not Buying Spin

Archbishop William Lori, head of the GOP organizing committee Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced to the Catholic Press Association yesterday that the U.S. bishops are "not trying to throw the election" through their Catholic-GOP machine politics religious freedom campaign.  This two days before the GOP rallies "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rallies the USCCB is sponsoring around the U.S. tomorrow.

Readers of the NCR article by Dennis Sandowski to which the first link above points aren't buying Lori's spin for a minute.  And here's how many non-Catholic media analysts are viewing the rallies around the country: writing in my state's statewide free newspaper Arkansas Times today about tomorrow's rally, editor Max Brantley states, 

When the Family Council's Jerry Cox and the sex-obsessed Catholic bishop, Anthony Taylor, (more concerned lately with prohibiting contraception and oppressing gay people than helping immigrants) join hands in the name of "freedom" you may be sure universal freedom is not what they're talking about. It is freedom according to their narrow lights. 
So it is with a scheduled "religious freedom" rally Friday at the state Capitol. 
The rally backers' idea of freedom includes, among others: Constitutionalized discrimination against gay families. Legal protections for people who bully gay children. Keeping birth control pills out of the hands of women. Government-endorsed prayer exercises. Government-financed religious schools. Government controls on women's health, and not just in reproductive decisions, but also in whom they choose to receive basic health services from. Religion taught in public school biology classes. Government prohibition of gambling and alcohol. Government-mandated Just Say No sex education.

Brantley comes to these judgments on very sound grounds.  The Jerry Cox to whom his article refers is a mover and shaker in GOP politics in Arkansas, and will be one of the four speakers at our state's "Stand Up" rally tomorrow, along with Catholic bishop Anthony Taylor.  The Family Council that Mr. Cox heads is affiliated with Focus on the Family, and was chiefly responsible for pushing through an initiated act in the 2008 elections banning adoption by unmarried couples (but targeting gay couples, in particular), which then had to be struck down by the state's Supreme Court as unconstitutional down the road.

As with many of these unconstitutional initiatives specifically targeting the gay community at the time of national or local elections, the primary purpose of this initiative was to get the "faithful" out to the polls to vote "right" (i.e., Republican) in the 2008 elections.

The USCCB "Stand Up" rally in Little Rock tomorrow will be overtly political, nakedly partisan, and an outright endorsement of the Republican party in the 2012 elections as the party anointed by God.  And anyone with eyes to see and a brain to think about what he/she sees knows that's precisely what the rally is about, why it's being held, and the base it will rally.

We have a down-home saying in Arkansas that, for all I know, is common to many other parts of the country.  It goes like this: Lie down with dogs and you can expect to get up with fleas.

In choosing to get into bed with the Jerry Coxes of the world, with the religious right, with those who bash gays in the name of God and want to knock women into submission with bible verses and catechism snippets, the U.S. Catholic bishops have long since lain down with dogs.

And no one with sense and integrity is going to believe them when they claim, as Archbishop Lori did yesterday, that they don't have big old fleas hopping all over them after their lie-down with dogs.  Big old  anti-gay, anti-woman fleas sporting elephant costumes as they cavort and preachify on the shoulders of their canine carriers.

Max Brantley is absolutely correct to conclude that, in joining hands with Jerry Cox and the religious right, the Catholic bishop of Arkansas Anthony Taylor has forfeited his moral credibility when he tries to convince Arkansans of Catholic teaching on issues like our moral obligation to welcome immigrants.  You can't simultaneously claim to be defending human freedom and human rights and attacking the freedom and rights of targeted minorities.

You lose your claim to credibility when you split your message about human rights and human freedom down the middle in that way.

A reminder of Jerry Slevin's marvelous challenge to Catholics who do want to defend the human rights of abuse survivors, nuns, and gay folks to accept the bishops' invitation to rally tomorrow, but to appear wearing something white and carrying signs indicating the bona fide Catholic human rights values for which you're rallying.

The graphic, which shows Archbishop Lori and others preparing to give testimony at the Congressional religious liberty hearings this past February, is from ABC news.

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