The Michigan Catholic Conference has funded an organization that is opposing efforts in that state to protect LGBTQ persons from discrimination.
A finance report from Citizens for Equality, Fairness, and Justice, an organization formed to oppose LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, reveals that the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) gave the group nearly $240,000 in donations. The Conference’s donations are the largest of the quarter compared to smaller ones of $1,000 to $3,000
Citizens for Equality, Fairness, and Justice has been opposing Fair and Equal Michigan, a campaign working to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity within the state. Michigan Advance reported that the campaign’s petition aims to “amend the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to expand anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ residents.”
A spokesperson for Fair and Equal Michigan, Josh Hovey, said:
“‘The Catholic Church’s opposition to LGBTQ equal rights is unfortunate, but it was not unexpected. It is well known that they have been out of touch with the majority of voters in Michigan and across the country on this issue, and that we are thankful that campaign finance disclosure laws make their anti-equality position known to all.'”
“‘At the end of the day, what opponents to our initiative are asking for is to continue being able to use religion as a license to discriminate. We believe very strongly that is wrong, and we are confident that not only are the vast majority of voters in agreement with us but also that if a vote was held in the legislature today, we could amend Elliott-Larsen to protect LGBTQ people immediately.'”
David Maluchnik, vice president of communication for MCC, released a statement detailing the conference’s opposition to Fair and Equal Michigan. The statement reads, in part:
“The Fair and Equal Michigan proposal includes an unprecedented and likely unconstitutional provision to define religion only as a person’s individual beliefs and would restrict the ability for religious organizations to provide humanitarian aid and social services in the public square. The proposal would have a crushing impact on the poor of Michigan by harming many Catholic and Christian, Muslim, and Jewish organizations who daily and outwardly express their faith as a way of life out of love for their neighbor.”
The Michigan Catholic Conference believes that if this proposal became law, “it would only be a matter of time before litigation and public relations campaigns were to begin against religiously-based charitable and humanitarian aid.”
Josh Hovey asserts that the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act “already provides exemptions for religious institutions” and that the language does not change if the proposal is adopted.
A state board rejected Fair and Equal Michigan’s petition to include the amendment on the ballot for the 2022 election. The board claimed that the petition had invalid signatures. Fair and Equal Michigan is now planning to appeal the state board’s petition rejection.
Like Hovey, LGBTQ Catholics may not be surprised by the actions of the Michigan Catholic Conference. However, the harm continues when Catholic organizations claim to recognize human dignity while they actively work to silence and shame LGBTQ persons. If MCC truly recognizes the dignity of all persons and worries about caring for the poor, then it must also recognize LGBTQ persons as a group disproportionately impacted by poverty and related injustices.
–Elise Dubravec, August 5, 2021