Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Old News Updated: Uganda's "Kill the Gays" Bill Still Alive, Pew Foundation and USCCB Lobbying Figures

Some news seems never to go away.  In the news-that-keeps-cycling-around category:

Despite numerous premature obituaries, the infamous bill in Uganda that Rachel Maddow has adroitly tagged the "kill the gays bill" is still not dead.  In fact, it's very much alive, most recently due to an appeal from the nation's top religious leaders--the Uganda Joint Christian Council--to the Ugandan parliament to pass the bill.

Yes.  As Peter Montgomery reports at Religion Dispatches, the leaders of Uganda's Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox communities are urging the nation's parliament to pass legislation that would criminalize homosexuality and make being gay a capital crime.  

As Montgomery also notes (and as I have repeatedly noted on this blog), the Vatican has spoken out against this draconian initiative in only the faintest and most equivocal ways, through a single statement by a low-ranking Vatican official in 2009.  Benedict has never spoken out against the Ugandan legislation: when he met with the Ugandan bishops in March 2010, he was totally silent about the "kill the gays" legislation, even as he told them to protect the sacred right to life and the sacrament of marriage.

As Peter Montgomery suggests, the kicker in such statements from church leaders--which imply that you can somehow protect the sacred right to life while subjecting gay people to capital penalties simply for being homosexual--is inscribed right in the self-understanding of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, which describes its work as follows:

The Uganda Joint Christian Council says on its website that it works "to build a society that harmoniously co-exists and promotes, protects, respects and upholds human dignity."

It seems to me that when you identify a targeted group of human beings as the despised Other who do not merit human rights or even consideration as human beings, you've lost your right to talk about building societies that protect, respect, and uphold human dignity.  And you've lost your right to talk about yourself as the protector of human life.

And you've entirely forfeited your right to describe yourself as a bona fide follower of Jesus.

Second piece of old news: at the America blog Monday, Kevin Clarke notes that, following objections from the USCCB, the Pew Forum has quietly revised its December 2011 ranking of faith-based advocacy/lobbying groups that had placed USCCB second on the list of such groups, based on the bishops' conference's annual budget for federal lobbying.  The figure used by Pew when it created its ranking was $27 million, and the bishops responded to the report by maintaining that this figure mixes advocacy and lobbying expenses, which are separate expenditures--though the $27 million figure came from the USCCB's own reporting of its annual advocacy expenditures.

Clarke wonders if bloggers who reported on this story in the past are now prepared to retract their "stories about free-spending beltway Catholics."  Yet as he himself says in the posting to which I've linked above, the latest Pew statement about these matters still contains the $27 million figure, even as it accepts the bishops' (self-)correction of this figure in its section on the ranking of faith-based lobbying groups in D.C.

Clarke writes,

In a different part of the revised report it replicates the $27 million figure with an asterisk that explains: "The USCCB questioned the advocacy expenditure figures used in the November 2011 report, which came from the 'Policy Activities Expenses' reported in the group’s 2008-2009 Consolidated Financial Statements ($26,662,111 for 2009 and $25,270,631 for 2008). In its communications with the Pew Forum, the USCCB said its advocacy expenditures are closer to $1 million, but the group did not provide a detailed breakdown or verifiable source for the estimate. As a result, no expenditures data for the group have been selected for analysis in the updated report." 
(I'll try to find out tomorrow why Pew and the U.S.C.C.B. still cannot seem to come to a satisfactory conclusion on conference expenditures.)

And if Clarke himself is still confused by the discrepancy between what the bishops now insist Pew report re: their lobbying/advocacy expenditures (based on slippery distinctions between advocacy and lobbying money which no other faith-based groups on the Pew list have demanded Pew make), then I'm just as confused.  Maybe the problem is that the bishops revealed too much information in the first place, when they issued their "Policy Activities Expenses" report showing that $27 million figure.

And when cats get out of bags, they have a way of wanting to stay out of bags, don't they?

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