The Rainbow Sash Movement disagrees with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops when it says you can’t have gay rights and the right of women to choose while maintaining religious liberty under the first Amendment. This type of bigotry betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of first Amendment principles, but fortunately is not getting support from most reasonable people as recent polls on Gay Marriage and a women’s right to choose attest to.
This was the theme this week of the US Catholic Bishops “Fortnight for Freedom It’s a much-hyped campaign that purports to champion religious freedom, but in actuality distorts it by promoting the use of religion as a license to discriminate against both women and gays.
The Catholic Bishops have recently made headlines by their vociferous attacks by Cardinal Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops against President Obama’s public support of Gay Marriage. They also argue that because Catholic doctrine opposes birth control, no woman should be guaranteed coverage of it in her health plan.
Archbishop Lori Chairman of the Committee that oversees the Fortnight for Freedom agenda said at the opening liturgy in Baltimore that the Church has every right to discriminate in light of its beliefs against both gays and women.
Remember in the Civil Rights Movement when Restaurants wanted out of laws requiring businesses that are open to the public to treat everyone equally regardless of race. They claimed that religion compelled them to segregate their establishments, and asserted that the First Amendment required the government to put civil rights laws aside. This is the same logic we are getting from the Bishops under the umbrella of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign.
This same mentality was used to prohibit black and white races from inter marrying. The trial court in Loving v. Virginia noted that “Almighty God created the races … and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Though that opinion was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark ACLU case in 1967, such objections are deeply rooted in the Catholic Bishops position. Indeed, the Bible was long used to defend the practice of slavery.
The same arguments were used to exclude women from public life. In 1869, the Illinois Supreme Court famously explained that it was a commonly held belief that “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action,” when it upheld a law that prevented women from becoming lawyers. More recently, schools have tried to get out of the Equal Pay Act so that they could pay male employees more, because scripture teaches that only men can be the “head of the household.” And in the last few months, we’ve seen a rash of stories about religiously-identified schools firing unmarried teachers for being pregnant, or married teachers for using in vitro fertilization to try to start a family.
The Rainbow Sash Movement calls on our fellow Catholics not to be misguided by the US Bishops attempts to promote discrimination in the name of religious freedom under the theme of “Fortnight for Religious Freedom. It is time for reasonable Catholics to stand opposed to the promotion of bigotry in the name of Church authority.
Mary Ann Smith
Rainbow Sash Movement