The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order, have emerged as one of the major funders of political activity opposed to marriage equality initiatives across the nation, according to a report released yesterday.
The report, entitled “The Strong Right Arm of the Bishops: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Equality Funding,” was commissioned by Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholics organizations–Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry– that work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society.
The New York Times summarized the main points of the report:
“Between 2005 and 2012, the Knights channeled $6.5 million to campaigns against same-sex marriage – most of it to political campaigns in 12 states to pass ballot measures that would ban marriage for gays and lesbians. . .
“The report, based on public Internal Revenue Service forms and campaign filings, said that the $6.5 million was probably an undercount because the Knights have not yet filed their I.R.S. forms for 2011 or 2012.
“The report found that $1.9 million of the total went to the National Organization for Marriage, a group that has coordinated statewide campaigns to pass anti-gay marriage initiatives. Gay marriage initiatives are on the ballot in four states in November: Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.”
The New York Times also reports the reaction of one Knight to the report:
“Edmund Burg, who joined the Knights of Columbus 65 years ago when he returned from serving in the Pacific theater, said he was close to following the example of a friend and resigning his membership.
“Mr. Burg lives in Minnesota, where the Knights and the Catholic bishops have backed an amendment to change the state Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Mr. Burg said he learned about the Knights’ involvement only after reading news media reports revealing that the Knights had helped to pay to send a DVD opposing gay marriage to about 400,000 Catholic households, including his.
“ ‘It’s really shameful that an organization like the Knights of Columbus that does a lot of good work, goes and smears their record by supporting something like anti-gay marriage,’ said Mr. Burg, a Catholic who said he supports his local parish but is disillusioned with the bishops.”
“Patrick Korten, a spokesman for the Knights, said about financing the campaigns: ‘Of course, we get involved in all of them. We supply volunteers, we give money. We are one with the church on the subject of preserving traditional man-and-woman marriage. And that should come as a great surprise to no one.’ . . .
“In a two-sentence statement released on Thursday, the Knights of Columbus said that they support “Catholic Social Teaching and the bishops of the Catholic Church, and some resources have long been dedicated to promoting that teaching on moral issues.”
“The statement did not contest the $6.2 million figure, but pointed out that in the same time period the group had also donated more than $1 billion to charitable causes.”
Equally Blessed’s members offered comment on the report:
Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA: “Carl Anderson is using the good name that the Knights have developed over generations as cover while pursuing policies and making alliances that many Catholics find deeply troubling when they learn about them.”
David Saavedera, Call To Action: “The Knights portray themselves as representatives of a broad Catholic tradition, but they have become culture warriors. Most U. S. Catholics support marriage equality, and even those who have doubts are put off by these hardline tactics.”
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry: “So many of us have memories of our fathers and grandfathers putting on their Knights’ regalia to march in parades and participate in special Masses. We remember them raising scholarship money so Catholic kids could go to college. It is deeply disheartening to know that this same organization is requiring its members to contribute to campaigns aimed at making sure that some of those kids are treated as second-class citizens.”
Mary Ellen Lopata, Fortunate Families [In response to the report's information which showed that the Knights' chaplain was instrumental in the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious earlier this year]: “It is a shame to see the Knights using their influence against women who have served the church so well for so long.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
National Catholic Reporter: “Knights of Columbus key contributor against same-sex marriage”