Monday, July 21, 2008

"Hateful and Discriminatory Rhetoric"

*note: anything discussed in this post is already public record, except for the opinions. Mine I claim as only my own. Others, I left vague and unattributed for the sake of the holders' anonymity.

A few days ago, I mentioned that I was at the Ninth Circuit courthouse. I was there, along with a whole hoard of other interns, to watch one of the best litigators in the city attempt to defend a resolution made by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Several people are sure he won, some even believe the City's position is right. I cannot agree with the second, and as to the first, I can only hope they are wrong.

Mr. Chhabria did an excellent job of arguing before the three-judge panel. I was amazed at how calm and collected he remained, no matter how hard any judge challenged him. His first sentence was deliberative and stern, yet not aggressive. My hope that he lost has nothing to do with his legal skills, rather it is about the issue.

In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document called "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. (This is a high-level Church office, previously held by the current Pope and once know as the Office of the Inquisition. It is responsible for spreading the doctrine of the Church.) The Church stated that it believed allowing same-sex couples to adopt children would "do violence to the children," as the Church believes same sex unions to be "gravely immoral." This document also informed Catholic politicians that their beliefs and moral duty as members of the Catholic Church required them to vote against any policies allowing same sex unions/marriages.

In 2006, the Catholic Church issued a directive to the Archdiocese of San Francisco declaring that "Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households." This directive was delivered through Cardinal Levada (former Archbishop of San Francisco). The Archdiocese of San Francisco followed the directive, and its Catholic Charities agency stopped allowing same sex couples to adopt children.

The Catholic Charities agency is by no means the only adoption service in the City of San Francisco. The government does not have any sort of agreement with the Catholic Charities agency regarding adoption, nor did it receive any government funds for its adoption services. It is a private, religious run organization.

The City didn't like the Catholic Church's position. And so, the Board of Supervisors decided to tell them so. In a very not nice way:

Resolution No. 168-06

Resolution urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

WHEREAS, It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City's existing and established customs and traditions such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need; and

WHEREAS, The statements of Cardinal Levada and the Vatican that "Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households," and "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children" are absolutely unacceptable to the citizenry of San Francisco; and,

WHEREAS, Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors; and

WHEREAS, Same-sex couples are just as qualified to be parents as are heterosexual couples; and

WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors urges Archbishop Niederauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

One of my friends was actually very glad about the City's resolution and said, "The Catholic Church has persecuted people for hundreds of years. Now it's their turn to be persecuted. So what?" But it doesn't work like that. Anyone else can say whatever they want about the Catholic Church; that's called the First Amendment. But the government cannot; that's called the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

The issue here is not about who persecuted who first. It is not about anyone's position on gay rights. It is about a City government taking an official position against a specific religion and admonishing its believers, to the point of telling them to subvert the doctrine of their faith.

This resolution is nothing more than San Francisco doing what the Bay Area does best. It says, "You must love and accept everyone. Be open minded and let people do what they want to do even if you think it's morally wrong. And if you disagree with us, you're an ignoramus and we will find some way to get you, to fix you, so you think like us." The City doesn't like the Church's morals, and has declared the Church ignorant, insensitive, callous and insulting. So what does the City do? The City callously and insensitively declares its own moral view obviously correct. It's hypocritical hogwash. And in this case, it's illegal.

(Now we'll wait a few months and see if the court agrees.)

You can listen to the oral arguments here. I'm sorry there's no direct link. It is file No. 06-17328 and is the only one that is 8.00MB.


Jeannie said...

Although I don't agree that placing children in homosexual households would "do violence to" the children, I also don't agree that the city government should have any right to tell a charity under the auspices of any church what it "morally" can and can't do. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state in government? Isn't the freedom to practice religious beliefs one of the main reasons many people first came to this country? Isn't that one of its main tenents that it was founded on? What gives San Francisco as a city the right to prohibit a religion from practicing what it deems correct? Now, I don't want to get into an argument about extreme religious people of any kind being able to practice their beliefs - anything to the extreme is just that - extreme - and that's not what this is talking about. As mentioned, this isn't the only institution that is providing adoption services in the Bay area, so if you are a gay couple and want to adopt, use another service! The Catholic Charities isn't denying the right of gay couples to adopt, just denying them from adopting from their private, church-funded agency.

goldenrail said...

While the City didn't actually prohibit the Church from doing anything - this was a resolution, not a ordinance, meaning the City encouraged stuff they couldn't enforce - I do think you get the point. Thank you.

(Smart and beautiful, what a combination.)