Catholic Leaders Are Abusing ‘Religious Freedom,’ Says LGBT-Friendly Minister

All too often, gay rights’ opponents accuse LGBT people of demanding “special rights,” as if the freedom to marry the person you love or the right to work without being harassed are privileges only available to a worthy few. Religious groups are often guilty of making the special rights argument — ironic, considering some recent moves from the Catholic Church.

Frank DeBernardo, executive director of the pro-LGBT Catholic group New Ways Ministry, recently wrote this editorial for Advocate.com about how officials in the Catholic Church misuse and misinterpret the concept of “religious freedom”:

Gay Catholic protesting ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ (Blake Bergen – Washington Blade)

The Catholic hierarchy is trying to fundamentally change the legal understanding of individual liberties, weighting the supposed rights of religious institutions more heavily than individual rights. At New Ways Ministry, we think there are good secular and religious arguments for not twisting the law into a tool for discrimination.

He seems to be particularly peeved with the “Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty,” a group that Catholic bishops created last fall to protect against a group of threats to the Church’s well-being that mostly related to sexuality. Surprised? The committee’s official stances actually differ pretty significantly from those of most Catholics, but they suggest and impose discriminatory policies anyway.

This committee formally opposes same-sex marriage, even though Catholics support same-sex unions more than any other Christian denomination (and even more than Americans overall). Worse, the committee’s endorsement of “ministerial privilege” paves the way for employee discrimination that would otherwise be illegal, like being fired just for disclosing that you’re in a same-sex relationship.

Under the guise of the “freedom of religion,” it’s not only permissible and proper, but hailed as moral, righteous, and the “right” thing to do.

DeBernardo continued:

Our fundamental objection to the bishops’ religious freedom campaign is that it’s a misuse of the law — an attempt to create new rights for religious institutions while trampling on the rights long-guaranteed to all individuals.

His objection is sound. The freedom of religion does not grant the freedom to discriminate, and it certainly doesn’t mean religious institutions can impose on existing laws.

Catholic leaders who try to impose policies like these unfairly cross the line between church and state. If anyone is vying for “special rights,” it’s religious leaders who fail to understand the meaning of religious freedom itself.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • ANTdrew

    sorry but what strikes me is….ANTics….muahahahahahah

  • LesterBallard


    pro-LGBT Catholic group New Ways Ministry”

    Does that make my head hurt.

    • debbiedoesreality

       Ha, my thoughts exactly. I read the first few lines and “what!?” and “why?” were the pervasive questions in my mind. I can’t wrap my mind around the need to stay in such organizations.

  • Joe

    “even though Catholics support same-sex unions more than any other Christian denomination (and even more than Americans overall)” The majority of these Catholics are more than likely not morally, socially, and politically Catholic (in union with the bishops and the Magisterium) so one should be careful in making these statements.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Do I smell a “no true Catholic” argument?

  • John Russell

    Religion is discriminatory by its very nature. If there is to be freedom of religion, which I certainly hold there should be, it must indeed include the freedom to discriminate. 

    • RobMcCune

      Which they have, except when they provide  services that receive public funds.

    • Patterrssonn

      So, you think that bigots should be allowed to act on their bigotry in ways that would normally illegal, if they have religious beliefs.

      • debbiedoesreality

        Religion has received a pass in so many arenas for so long now that it’s the norm to many… to the point of screams of protest when things don’t go that way. “The law and The Constitution be damned, Jesus wants us to have our way!”
        I see it beginning to change here and there, but not quickly enough. I realize that excusing ill behavior under the all-too-cozy blanket of religious notions is so ingrained in so many people that it will take a long time to replace it with compassionate, more logical, less bigoted ways of thought, but I do think it will happen eventually and it’s good to see baby steps heading in the right direction.

  • Ida

    Ha! I love that photo! :-) Six men, just enough to hold the banner. No other protestors, not even anyone to hand out literature to the crowd leaving from our (completely non political) event. In DC, they could only gin up six protestors.It was a good try though. :-)


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