“Actor Gary Sinise, Fox News anchor Bret Baier, and brewer Pete Coors have all dropped out of the 2015 Legatus Summit, scheduled for later this month in Florida. Last year, actor Bob Newhart withdrew after gay rights activists launched a campaign to dissuade Newhart from appearing.”
Legatus, a creation of conservative Catholic and Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, exists at the far right among Catholic groups. Edge Baltimore reports that in previous publications, Legatus identified marriage equality as an “intrinsic evil” and nonnegotiable for Catholic voters. The organization has also promoted reparative therapy, citing the widely discredited National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. They have also criticized transgender children. Though Legatus’ director said the group promotes Catholic teaching “nothing more, nothing less,” these beliefs extend beyond magisterial articulations about homosexuality.
In each withdrawal, the high-profile Catholics stated they were previously unaware of Legatus’ anti-LGBT views, and once made aware, they chose not to associate. In a statement, Sinise said, in part:
“For me, faith has been a catalyst for my mission to honor the men and women who serve in our nation’s military. When I accepted the invitation to speak at the Legatus conference about Veterans issues and share my story, I was unaware of the controversy surrounding some of the participants, and their views on personal matters.”
Meanwhile, MolsonCoors tweeted the following when asked about their executive’s attendance:
“Pete Coors was previously unaware of the controversy of the group’s position on LGBT issues & will not be speaking at the summit.”
Of Baier, a spokesperson for Fox News said:
“Bret accepted the invitation to speak about his book, his faith, and his son’s congenital heart disease. He was unaware of these articles or the controversy surrounding them.”
More extreme voices like former Arkanas governor Mike Huckabee and Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute have been chosen to replace the three cancelled speakers, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Acton Institute founder Fr. Robert Sirico remain scheduled to participate in the Legatus Summit from January 29-31 in Naples, Florida.
Last year, Bob Newhart declined to speak at the meeting after Legatus’ views were brought to light by GLAAD and Faithful America. Given Newhart’s friendly record towards LGBT issues during his entertainment career, it wasn’t surprising that he dropped out of the conference when he learned about their record. It is notable this year that Sinise, Coors, and Baier have in the past tended toward more conservative political views, yet still felt the anti-LGBT messages were distasteful enough to withdraw.
Wouldn’t it be great if Cardinal Dolan used his appearance at the conference to correct Legatus’ extremist views?
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry