Petition Asks Knights of Columbus to End Work Against Marriage Equality

Catholics United, a religious political organization, delivered a petition with 7,500 signatures to the headquarters of the Knights of Columbus, asking the fraternal organization to stop funding activities to oppose marriage equality.

According to the New Haven Register, two members of Catholics United delivered the signed petition to the  Knights’ New Haven offices just two days before Thanksgiving, noting that the Knights are out of step with mainstream Catholicism:

“The Knights of Columbus has done a lot of wonderful things over the years, but many Catholics across the country believe the Knights of Columbus has just become a wing of the Republican Party,” said Patrick Carolan, 58, of Stratford [Connecticut]. . . .

” ‘While they’re spending money to defeat gay marriage, well, that’s money that could be helping people around the world,’ Carolan said.”

The article contains a video interview with Mr. Carolan and Traugott Lawler of Hamden, a 75-year-old retired English professor from Yale University, as they delivered the petition.

The news article cited the report released earlier this year by Equally Blessed which detailed the Knights’ massive spending on marriage equality opposition over the past several years:

“The Knights have contributed at least $6.25 million to anti-gay marriage initiatives since 2005, federal income tax and campaign documents show. According to a report by the group Equally Blessed, the Knights gave $600,000 during the 2012 election cycle.”

Equally Blessed is a coalition of four Catholic organizations–Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry–which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society.

An Associated Press story noted a statement by the head of Catholics United, the organization which collected the signatures on the petition:

” ‘As a young Catholic, I want my church to focus on serving the marginalized, not fighting for far-right political issues,’ said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Following the Knights of Columbus Money Trail

Catholic fundraising to work against marriage equality has been in the headlines lately.  Last week, we reported on the $750,000 that the Minnesota Catholic Conference raised to support efforts to adopt a state constitutional amendment against marriage equality.

This week’s news is about a more insidious form of Catholic fundraising.  Insidious because it is not immediately apparent that donations are being used to thwart marriage equality plans.  In the National Catholic Reporter, columnist Nicole Sotelo has explored some of the tricky methods used by the Knights of Columbus to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in the anti-marriage equality campaign:

“In 2008 and 2009, the Supreme Knight’s charitable report shows the organization gave more to “family life” projects than they did to “community projects.” On the surface this sounds benign, but “family life” is the Knights’ terminology for predominantly anti-gay initiatives, whereas “community projects” represents soup kitchens and food pantries.

“Among the ‘community projects,’ the Knights contributed $5,000 to disaster relief in Indiana and $3,000 to the community soup kitchen in New Haven, Conn., where the organization is headquartered, according to the 2010 Annual Report of the Supreme Knight. This deserves applause, until you learn that under the same category of ‘community projects,’ they financed a $530,000 contribution to the Becket Fund, an organization of politically controversial lawyers. Do these lawyers really need the Knights’ charity?”

As the years go by, the totals increase.  Sotelo reports that in 2009 and 2010:

“. . .the Knights donated almost $1.2 million to fund the bishops’ newly created committee that works against equal protection for gays and lesbians and dubbed it ‘charity’ in their annual report.”

I am not surprised that the Knights of  Columbus are working against marriage equality, but I am surprised that their public reporting of these funds is so ambiguous.

Sotelo raises several important questions about the Knights’ activities in her column, and I encourage all to read it in its entirety. You can access it here.  Reading it raised two more questions for me:  1) Why are the Knights reluctant to acknowledge the true purpose of these funds?; 2) Are the rank and file members of the Knights aware of how their donations are being used?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry