Catholic Hierarchy Engages with NOM in Fighting MN Marriage Equality
September 29, 2010
By Zack Pesavento
Over 400,000 Catholic parishioners in Minnesota are opening their mailboxes this week to find a DVD stamped with the injunction: \"View now for an urgent message from Archbishop Nienstedt.\" This unusually direct communication has nothing to do with issues of poverty, war, environmental destruction or disease. It's about civil marriage equality.
To be more exact -- it's a message against civil marriage equality. Produced by the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic fraternal organization that has been a major funder of anti-equality groups like the National Organization for Marriage and distributed by the bishops of Minnesota, the 18 minute video includes calls for a statewide constitutional amendment against marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Cognizant of the archdiocese's tax-exempt status as a religious organization, the Archbishop claimed in a recent interview that this effort \"isn't about partisan politics in any way.\" But coming six weeks ahead of a major gubernatorial election in which marriage equality has featured prominently, the Archbishop's words ring hollow.
His message isn't resonating with the people of Minnesota, either. A new poll out today shows that pro-equality candidate Mark Dayton's lead over NOM's favorite anti-equality candidate Tom Emmer has grown to 11 percentage points. That same poll showed the candidates in a dead heat only one month ago.
Many Catholic Minnesotans simply don't understand why their Archbishop would put so much time and energy into an effort to restrict the civil rights of same-sex couples, when there are so many other pressing issues to consider.
A group of these fair-minded Catholics have already launched a campaign to send the divisive DVDs back to the Archbishop. Stressing the need for a focus on inclusivity, the organizers at ReturnTheDVD.org state:
\"We are collecting as many DVDs as possible and will return them to Archbishop John Nienstedt with a letter asking him to make the needs of the poor and love of neighbor his highest priority.\"
Lucinda Naylor, who was until recently the artist-in-residence at the Basillica of St. Mary's in Minneapolis, proposed that she would use some of the returned DVDs \"to create a piece of art that transforms that message of fear into one of hope.\" She was fired from her job of 15 years on Sunday.
Large numbers of Catholics have sought ways to counter the Church hierarchy's attempts to speak on their behalf as they attack LGBT people. In recent weeks, a new nationwide organization called Catholics for Equality has formed to mobilize the majority of American Catholics who support equal rights for their LGBT brothers and sisters.