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Gazette Premium Content OUR VIEW: Politicians slam Catholic church (vote here)

Wayne Laugesen Updated: November 5, 2010 at 12:00 am

If City Council passed a resolution denouncing Islam as hateful and ignorant, violence might ensue. Yet city government in San Francisco gets to denounce the Catholic church as hateful and ignorant, because of its anti-gay adoption policies, with the tacit approval of federal judges.

The U.S. State Department tells non-Muslims to forget about adopting orphans from Middle Eastern countries that uphold Islamic law, which forbids non-Muslims to adopt Muslims.

Other ethnic and religious groups throughout the United States and the rest of the world also take positions opposing adoptions into dissimilar families. The National Association of Black Social Workers opposes the adoption of black children into white homes, unless all same-race options have been exhausted. Some judges use the association’s position statement in denying interracial adoptions.

The population of Colorado Springs is predominantly white. So imagine City Council, standing up for a constituency, adopting a resolution condemning black social workers. In defense of its Christian constituency, the council could pass a resolution condemning foreign nations for upholding Islamic adoption rules — just as San Francisco condemned the Vatican’s Catholic adoption guidelines.

In this country of religious freedom and cultural tolerance, the council would be swiftly scorned by polite society and spanked by the federal courts. We don’t tolerate government proclamations that denounce the values of ethnic and religious organizations. This column never tolerates government-initiated bigotry. The Gazette, like other media, has strongly criticized those who would deny building permits for mosques — even one close to Ground Zero, the site of attacks committed in the name of Islam. If we don’t protect religion from government, we will not remain free.

Yet we see no outrage regarding San Francisco’s condemnation of the Vatican, a foreign nation, for instructing Catholic Charities to avoid placing orphans with same-sex couples. The resolution calls the Catholic rule “hateful,” “discriminatory,” “insulting,” “callous,” and “shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered.” Try telling that to Islam, San Francisco, regarding its discriminatory adoption laws. Oh, that’s right. Islam would retaliate. And in the realm of Kumbaya politics, might makes right.

The San Francisco resolution was challenged peacefully in the courts, and last week a divided Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the complaint against the city. In doing so, it upheld the right of city government to officially condemn the Catholic church.

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Nobody should demand that Islamic or Catholic leaders grant sacramental marriages to same-sex couples, but we must demand that governments make no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual couples. Individual freedom should be broad, while government authority should be narrow and strictly constrained.

The Gazette’s editorial board has consistently defended the rights of same-sex couples to wed and be treated the same as heterosexual couples by governments, but not churches. The board also believes that stable same-sex couples provide good homes for children who need them, and that placement in such homes is better for children than lives spent bouncing from one foster home to the next.

The Gazette makes no exceptions in defending the rights of religious organizations and other private parties to freely associate, which means to discriminate. Government hasn’t the authority to denounce a private association of social workers for discouraging interracial adoptions. It hasn’t the authority to force values on private parties. It cannot force Muslims to embrace Christian and Jewish couples as viable adoptive parents. Likewise, government should have no authority to condemn a church for telling its own private adoption agency to avoid placing children with same-sex couples whom the church does not view as sacramentally wed.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s popular. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fair. It doesn’t matter whether it insults same-sex couples who only wish to provide loving homes. Freedom of religion and association are protected by law — even for people whom government authorities despise. Freedom is sometimes ugly, callous and bold. Yet it remains the greatest asset Americans have.

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