Bishops Latest Attack on Referendum 74 Both Inaccurate and Misleading

Sunday Bulletin Full of Errors and Scare Tactics

Washington United for Marriage (WUM) launched yet another marriagefactcheck on the state’s bishops who continue to mislead and misrepresent Referendum 74 and the state’s bipartisan marriage law.  This week, the bishops released a lengthy insert to the church bulletin that is scheduled to be delivered to churches and given to parishioners this weekend.

“The bishops continue to hammer away at parishioners with false and misleading information about the freedom to marry,” said WUM campaign manager Zach Silk. “Not only have they rehashed some of the oldest and discredited claims long used by our opponents, they’ve added some new ones that are impossible to substantiate because those assertions have never seen the light of day and have never been validated by outside sources.”

Silk noted another interesting trend in the latest round of misinformation: “It’s important to notice that our opponents, including the bishops, have now reached into countries like Brazil to embolden their attack, countries that have nothing to do with the United States, let alone the state of Washington.”


ASSERTION: In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was legalized by the state’s highest court, students are taught about gay marriage in public school classrooms and the courts have ruled that parents have no right to prior notice, or to opt their children out of such instruction.

FACTS: The courts have ruled that parents’ rights to exercise their religious beliefs are not violated because of contrary ideas in school.  There are only two examples of Massachusetts parents issuing complaints about the materials taught in their children’s classrooms.  One of the children was given a “diversity book bag” that included the book, Who’s in a Family, which depicts a variety of non-traditional families, but the book was not required reading.  Another involved a child being read King & King in a second-grade class.  After two rulings that were favorable to the schools, the Supreme Court refused to hear the couples’ joint case.  Kris Mineau, executive director of the Massachusetts Family Institute, couldn’t cite incidents other than in Lexington when he was pressed to do so.  He said, “I don’t have documentation of everything going on.”

ASSERTION: Eighteen first-grade students in San Francisco took a school-sponsored field trip to attend the wedding of their teacher and her lesbian partner in October 2008. The school principal described it as a “teachable moment.”
FACTS: The children were not forced to go on the field trip.  Parents of the children who participated were required to give their consent beforehand and could opt out if the trip violated their beliefs (two parents did).

 — The class that participated in this field trip was from a charter school, which is publicly funded but privately run, according to the Chronicle.  

ASSERTION: In Vermont this summer, an innkeeper was forced to pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by two women for refusing to host the couple’s wedding reception. The inn no longer hosts weddings or receptions.

FACTS:  The issue here is not same-sex marriage but rather existing Vermont law that prohibits discrimination.  The manager of the Vermont inn cited the owners’ “personal feelings” as the reason why it refused to host the lesbian couple’s wedding.  But the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act prohibits public accommodations – such as inns, restaurants and schools that serve the public – “from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation.”

ASSERTION: In Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legalized, Roman Catholic sportscaster Damian Goddard was fired from his job for expressing support for traditional marriage.

FACTS: While the National Organization for Marriage claims Goddard was fired from his position at Toronto’s Rogers Sportsnet for his tweet regarding same-sex marriage, the company denied that assertion, noting the “well documented” reasons for his termination.  And as Equality Matters pointed out: “Goddard himself admitted that it was ‘absolutely’ possible that his tweet had nothing to do with his termination.”

ASSERTIONAccusations that it is “anti-gay” have been leveled at Chick-Fil-A, because its founder offered a personal statement supporting traditional marriage. Mayors in several major cities denounced the company for its “discriminatory views” and have a threatened to prevent the company from operating in their cities.

FACTS: A handful of elected officials publicly denounced Chik-fil-A for Dan Cathy’s disparaging comments about same-sex marriage, but only two mayors said they would try to prevent the company from opening in their cities.  One of the mayors later clarified his position by saying that the city could not do anything to stop the company from opening up shop if it chose to do so.

ASSERTIONIn August, a gunman entered the offices of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. with intent to kill staff members because the organization defends marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The Family Research Council has been branded by one same-sex marriage advocacy group as a “hate group” because of its support for traditional marriage. (A third mayor expressed disapproval but did not explicitly say he would work to keep the company out if it tried.)

FACTS: The organization that designated the Family Research Council a “hate group” is the well-respected Southern Poverty Law Center, “a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.”  The group immediately condemned the act of violence against the FRC.

ASSERTIONA Methodist organization in New Jersey lost its state tax exemption for refusing to make their facilities available to a same-sex couple for a civil union ceremony.

FACTS: In 2007, a publicly subsidized boardwalk pavilion in Ocean Grove, NJ that happened to be owned by a Methodist organization lost its real estate tax-exempt status after refusing to allow two same-sex couples to have civil union ceremonies at the pavilion.  The State Division on Civil Rights opened a discrimination investigation against the organization and found, “It is clear that the pavilion is not open to all persons on an equal basis.”  A federal district court judge refused to stop the investigation after the organization claimed it violated its First Amendment rights because the United Methodist Church does not believe in civil unions.

ASSERTIONForced to choose between their ministries and Catholic teaching, Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington D.C. closed their adoption agencies.

FACTS: Instead of complying with non-discrimination laws currently on the books that apply to any organization receiving taxpayer dollars, Catholic charities in Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington, D.C. CHOSE to abandon adoption services.  These conflicts arose over long-standing non-discrimination laws, which are unrelated to same-sex marriage. And in Massachusetts, the board chair of Catholic Charities and seven other board members resigned over the position forced on the agency by the bishops.

ASSERTIONIn Canada, where same-sex marriage was being debated, Father Alphonse de Valk, a Basilian priest, was investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for a ‘hate act’ after quoting extensively from the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals to defend traditional marriage.

FACTS:  All reporting on this incident originates from religious publications so it is difficult to discern the facts.

ASSERTIONIn Alberta, Canada, Bishop Fred Henry was subject to a human rights complaint for stating in a pastoral letter the position of the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage.

FACTS: In his letter, Henry compared homosexuality to prostitution and pornography and argued that the government should use “coercive power” to stop them: “Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.”  Numerous respected individuals and organizations denounced Henry’s letter –including the Toronto Star editorial board; Challenge the Church, a progressive Canadian Catholic group; and the Globe and Mail’s Michael Valpy.

ASSERTIONThe California Legislature has passed a bill to legalize families of three or more parents.

FACTS: The California bill, SB 1476, was designed to offer flexibility to families so that legal parenting can be extended to more than two qualified parties if it is deemed to be “required in the best interests of the child.”  It never became law because Governor Brown vetoed it.