Tags: dc | catholic | abortion

Catholic Charities Threatens D.C. Over Abortion

Friday, 13 Nov 2009 05:28 PM

By Dan Weil

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The Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C, says it will cease its charitable services in the city if a bill to allow same-sex marriages isn’t changed.

And so far, most city council members aren’t budging.

The law would require the church to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians, though religious groups wouldn’t have to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings.

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Because Catholic Charities receives funds from the city, the archdiocese is worried that it would have to provide employees benefits and adoptions to same-sex couples. It has asked to be exempted from any requirement to do so.

Several council members have expressed opposition to that request. "Allowing individual exemptions opens the door for anyone to discriminate based on assertions of religious principle," Councilman Phil Mendelson told The Associated Press.

Catholic Charities now has city contracts to assist about 68,000 people in the city with adoption, homelessness and healthcare. The archdiocese has generally stayed out of city politics.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs told The Washington Post, “If the city requires this, we can't do it. The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

The conflict may be the strongest between a local or state government and a faith-based group providing charity services.

The Catholic Church had a strong influence on the healthcare bill that passed the House last weekend. The church helped convince House members to support an amendment to the bill that would strongly prevent federal funds from being used to finance abortions.

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