The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

D.C. Council Should Not Cave In To Catholic Church's Demands On Marriage Exemption, Says Americans United


The religion exemption in a proposed same-sex marriage bill
adequately protects religious freedom, and the District of Columbia
Council should not give in to demands from the Catholic Archdiocese
that it be broadened, says Americans United for Separation of Church
and State.

In a Nov. 10 statement, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington
threatened to drop contracts with the District government to provide
social services, unless church programs are broadly exempted from civil
rights provisions that will protect same-sex couples.

Catholic Charities DC, the social service arm of the archdiocese,
received $16 million of its $23 million budget last year through
governmental contracts.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director,
"The church's demand is outrageous. If 'faith-based' charities cannot
or will not obey civil rights laws, they ought not benefit from public

"I am amazed that church officials would threaten to stop helping
the disadvantaged because they are being asked to treat all citizens of
the District fairly," he continued. "They seem to have lost all
perspective. How strong is their commitment to helping the poor if
they're willing to take this hardline stance?

"If Catholic Charities drops its participation in publicly funded
social services," Lynn concluded, "I am confident that other charities
would be happy to pick up the slack."

Lynn said Americans United attorneys have examined the religion
exemption proposed in the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage
Equality Amendment Act" and found it to be a reasonable balance that
protects the civil rights of all city residents as well as the
independence of religious institutions.

Said Lynn, "We made several suggestions to the council in regard to
the religion exemption, and most of our concerns have been met. The
archdiocese's demands are extreme, and council members should reject

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.