Pence Says Obama Needs to Fire Catholic-Bashing Adviser

February 26, 2010 - 7:22 PM
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said it is long overdue for President Barack Obama to fire Harry Knox, a member of the White House Advsisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships who has repeatedly bashed the Pope and the Catholic Church.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 19, 2010. (Photo by CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) says that it is "long overdue" for President Barack Obama to fire Harry Knox from the White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships because of the "vehement anti-Catholic statements" Knox has made.
 
"Harry Knox’s repeated, intolerant statements about the Catholic Church and Catholic teachings make it totally inappropriate for him to serve on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships," Pence told CNSNews.com in an interview Friday. "Harry Knox’s termination from the president’s Faith-Based Advisory Council is long-over due. And we would renew our call for Harry Knox to be removed from that position by the president.”

"I think Harry Knox is like any American entitled to his opinions," said Pence. "But he is simply and categorically the wrong person to serve on the president’s advisory council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  I mean, the very idea that someone who has expressed vehement anti-Catholic statements should remain as a White House advisor on faith-based matters is absurd.  And it’s an offence to Americans of Faith broadly, and it’s specifically an offense to Catholic Americans.”
 

 
Pence initially called for Knox's dismissal in a news release last May.

CNSNews.com also asked Pence why he thought Knox--who Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) termed an “anti-Catholic bigot”--had not been yet dismissed by the White House.
 
“I would hesitate to speculate on why someone who has made repeated and even recent statements of an intolerant nature toward Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church is continuing to serve on the president’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Partnerships,” said Pence.
 
He added, “But let me just reiterate what I think, is his removal from this important agency of the administration is long-overdue, and we urge the president on behalf of all Americans of faith, but most especially Catholic Americans, to act to remove him from that position.”
 
When CNSNews.com asked Knox on Feb. 2 whether he still stands by an assertion he made in March 2009 that Pope Benedict XVI was “hurting people in the name of Jesus” because he does not condoning condom distribution as the solution to AIDS in Africa, Knox said:  “I do."


Knox’s earlier March 2009 statement about the Pope was posted on the Web site of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a homosexual activist group, where Knox works as director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program.
 
The statement, posted two weeks before Knox was appointed to Obama’s Advisory Council, partly says:  “The Pope’s statement that condoms don’t help control the spread of HIV, but rather condoms increase infection rates, is hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
 
“On a continent where millions of people are infected with HIV, it is morally reprehensible to spread such blatant falsehoods,” reads the statement. “The pope’s rejection of scientifically proven prevention methods is forcing Catholics in Africa to choose between their faith and the health of their entire community.  Jesus was about helping the marginalized and downtrodden, not harming them further.”
 
In addition, Knox has a history of bashing the Catholic Church, as reported by CNSNews.com on Feb. 17.  In April 2007, for example, Knox put out a statement through the HRC accusing the Catholic Church of doing something that was "immoral and insulting to Jesus" by denying communion to a lesbian couple that was publicly promoting same-sex marriage. In December 2008, he signed a statement saying the Catholic Church was "sending a message that violence and human rights abuses against LGBT people are acceptable" because the church would not support a UN resolution that equated all sexual orientations.
 
The St. Michael Society, a Catholic group dedicated to “defending and promoting the faith in the public square,” has sponsored a petition calling for Knox’s resignation. The petition has garnered more than 9,500 signatures.
 
On Feb. 4, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is Catholic, told CNSNews.com that Knox appears to be an “anti-Catholic bigot” and should resign as a White House adviser. 


 
“He should resign, and I have agreed to sign a letter” from the St. Michael Society, said Boehner. “We can’t have in the White House an anti-Catholic bigot, and that’s what this gentleman appears to be.”
 
Last May, Boehner and Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich), along with 20 other prominent Catholics, signed a letter sent to the White House that called on Obama to remove Knox from the advisory council.
 
Nearly a month after the letter was sent, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNSNews.com that he had not seen the letter, “but the president is comfortable with the makeup of his faith advisory council.”
 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs speaks to a reporters, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, during his daily press briefing in the White House Pressroom at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

On Feb. 22 of this year, CNSNews.com asked Gibbs about Boehner's renewed call for Knox to resign.
 
“I don't--not surprisingly, I do not have anything on that,” Gibbs said. “I'd be happy to have one of these guys take a look at it.” 

But White House spokesman Shin Inouye did not respond to a follow-up email and telephone calls from CNSNews.com asking for a White House response to Boehner's call for Knox's resignation, and also asking if the White House agreed with Knox's statement about Pope Benedict and if it still supported Knox as a member of the president's faith-based advisory council.
 
Knox is one of 25 members of the White House’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Obama announced the formation of the office last February, a continuation of a similar office started by President George W. Bush to issue federal grants to faith-based, non-profit charitable organizations.

Other members include Bishop Charles Blake of the Church of God in Christ in Chicago; the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president-elect of the National Council of Churches USA; Dr. Frank Page, president emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention; the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of the liberal Christian group Sojourners; and the Rev. Joel C. Hunter of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla.
 
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s interview of Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) follows below:
 
CNSNews.com: “I want to ask you for your response to what Harry Knox, who is on President Obama’s Faith-Based Advisory Council, has said.  He has made anti-Catholic comments a number of times.  If I could just run through three statements he has made on the Human Rights Campaign website:
 
“In April of 2007, after a bishop’s instruction to a Wyoming lesbian couple to refrain from receiving Communion at the Catholic Mass, Knox said:  “It is immoral and insulting to Jesus to use the body and blood of Christ the reconciler as a weapon to silence free speech and demean the love of a committed, legally married couple.  The HRC grieves with the couple…over this act of spiritual and emotional violence perpetrated against them.
 
“In December of 2008, after the Vatican refused to sign a U.N. agreement that called for decriminalizing homosexuality and equating all sexual orientations, Knox and the HRC signed a statement with other pro-homosexual groups that says, in part:  “As faith leaders, we were shocked by Vatican opposition to this proposed initiative…By refusing to sign a basic statement opposing inhumane treatment of LGBT people, the Vatican is sending a message that violence and human rights abuses against LGBT people are acceptable.  Many are speaking out against this immoral stance in the name of religion.
 
“And recently, Knox re-affirmed a statement he made in March 2009 where he says, “The Pope’s statement that condoms don’t help control the spread of HIV, but rather condoms increase infection rates, is hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
 
“Congressman, you put out a statement last May calling for the President to withdraw Knox’s appointment.  Why do you think it is unacceptable for a White House advisor to attack the Catholic Church?”
 
Rep. Pence:  “Well, Harry Knox’s repeated, intolerant statements about the Catholic Church and Catholic teachings make it totally inappropriate for him to serve on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Harry Knox’s termination from the president’s Faith-Based Advisory Council is long-over due.  And we would renew our call for Harry Knox to be removed from that position by the president.”
 
CNSNews.com: “Earlier this week (Feb. 22), one of our reporters—Fred Lucas—spoke with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs about Harry Knox.  Gibbs was unfamiliar with the issue and told Fred Lucas to call and follow up; we have yet to get a response.  Why do you think Knox—whom Leader Boehner has termed an anti-Catholic bigot—has not received more attention and has not been dismissed by the White House?”
 
Rep. Pence:  “Well, I would hesitate to speculate on why someone who has made repeated and even recent statements of an intolerant nature toward Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church is continuing to serve on the president’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Partnerships.  But let me just reiterate what I think is his removal from this important agency of the administration is long-overdue, and we urge the president on behalf of all Americans of Faith, but most especially Catholic Americans to act to remove him from that position. “
 
CNSNews.com:  “Why do you think -- or do you have any thoughts as to why -- Harry Knox attacks the Catholic Church and conservative religious leaders this way?”
 
Rep.  Pence:  “I really don’t.  I am aware that Harry Knox serves as a director of Religion and Faith at the Human Rights Campaign which has been a homosexual activist group. But I think Harry Knox is like any American entitled to his opinions.  But he is simply and categorically the wrong person to serve on the president’s advisory council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  I mean, the very idea that someone who has expressed vehement anti-Catholic statements should remain as a White House advisor on faith-based matters is absurd.  And it’s an offence to Americans of Faith broadly, and it’s specifically an offense to Catholic Americans.”