Three bicycle companies in Canada are refusing to partner with the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization, when it comes to bike donations and/or events because of the Knights’ anti-LGBTQ stands.
Vancouver’s PEDAL Society, Bike Kitchen, and Kickstand Community Bikes, three organizations that collect used bicycles, refurbish them, and then donate them to people in need, have either ended partnerships with the Knights of Columbus (KOC) or refused to begin new ones. B.C. Catholic reported this refusal was because the Knights’ anti-LGBTQ equality record violated the bike shops’ principles of human rights and equality.
Cara Fisher, on behalf of the PEDAL Society, provided the following statement:
“We made this decision after consulting with staff and our board of directors and reflecting on our values…As an organization that operates under an anti-oppression framework, and as an ally and employer of the LGBTQ community, our values conflict sharply with the KOC.”
Fisher also underscored that the PEDAL Society “is committed to respect for all people and serves all communities ‘regardless of religion, background, gender identity, and sexual orientation.’” While the organization accepts donations from a broad range of companies, it doesn’t collaborate “with any organization that actively conflicts with [their] values.”
Alex Alvarez, manager of The Bike Kitchen, said the Knights’ “stance on LGBTQ rights, reproductive health and abortion amongst other issues” was not congruent with the bicycle group’s ethics. He noted:
“Advocating for marginalized folks is a key part of what we do as an organization and partnering with your organization would undercut our guiding principles and values.’
Caleb Cheek, a board member and volunteer for Kickstand Community Bikes, emphasized that their organization is “a safe space for members of LGBTQI+ communities.” The organization expects all their volunteers and partners to practice “inclusion and respect.”
Cheek specifically mentioned the Knights’ political work against LGBTQ equality initiatives as part of the reason for the organization’s decision:
“It has come to the board’s attention that the Knights of Columbus engage in funding political activity that undermines the dignity, equality, and safety of the very communities we serve. Kickstand is therefore unable to put on an event in partnership with the Knights of Columbus, or ask our volunteers to participate in such an event on behalf of Kickstand.”
Although the Knights of Columbus participates in numerous charitable activities, it also provided enormous sums of money and volunteer time battling LGBTQ equality. The Knights spent at least $6.5 million trying to stop marriage equality. At least one Knights leader at the college level was asked to resign because of their same-gender relationship. And investigative reporting from the National Catholic Reporter has shown the Knights continue to fund pseudo-scientific institutes and right wing Catholic media outlets, both of which target LGBTQ rights. Meanwhile, many church employees investment accounts are tied to the Knights of Columbus’ business operations, which fund its ant-LGBTQ efforts, often without the employees’ knowledge.
Three important lessons emerge from this controversy.
First, organizations, even religious groups that engage in considerable charitable and volunteer activities that have homophobic or intolerant policies, are losing valuable community partnerships.
Second, even organizations that do not specialize in LGBTQ advocacy are declining to partner with organizations that have anti-LGBTQ attitudes, viewpoints, or policies. Anti-discrimination provisions for the LGBTQ community have become part of the larger fabric of organizational social justice goals. We are witnessing a growing cultural norm that homophobia and transphobia are socially unacceptable.
Finally, as a Catholic organization that adheres to church teaching on the human dignity of every person, the Knights of Columbus should work to change its policies, guidelines, and treatment of the LGBTQ community.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, April 15, 2020