San Francisco Court Debates Religions’ Right to Oppose ‘Gay’ Adoption

July 15, 2008 - 4:58 PM
Was a resolution by the city of San Francisco condemning the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality a violation of the U.S. Constitution or an expression of free speech?
(CNSNews.com) - Was a resolution by the city of San Francisco condemning the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality a violation of the U.S. Constitution or an expression of free speech? Oral arguments on this issue will be heard Wednesday by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
 
The debate is a result of Resolution 168-06, which was passed unanimously on March 21, 2006, by the board of supervisors of the city and county of San Francisco and which urged the archbishop of San Francisco and Catholic Charities of San Francisco to defy church directives.
 
The document called on Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his “discriminatory and defamatory directive” that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.
 
According to Catholic teaching, children should not be adopted by homosexual couples, because it does violence to them in the sense that the same-sex environment is not conducive to the children’s full human development. A child has a right to a mother and a father, and non-natural promotion of other “family” orders is not proper.
 
In addition, the March 21, 2006, resolution alluded to the Vatican as a “foreign country” meddling in the affairs of the city and described the church’s moral teaching as “insulting to all San Franciscans,” “hateful,” “insulting and callous,” “defamatory” and “absolutely unacceptable.”
 
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said in a news release on March 22, 2006, that the board, “which has long shown its affinity for the radical gay agenda, has now demonstrated that it has nothing but contempt for the First Amendment provisions on religious liberty and the establishment of religion.”
 
“If they had it their way, the government would dictate the teachings of the Catholic Church,” said Donohue. “According to this logic, any religious entity that faithfully follows the tenets of its faith risks being condemned by San Francisco officials if the board of supervisors disagrees with its contents.
 
“The real meddlers, obviously, are government agents who seek to smash the principle of separation of church and state by seeking to inject themselves into the internal affairs of a world religion,” Donohue noted.
 
Two weeks later, the Catholic League and two Catholic residents of San Francisco filed a complaint stating they “object to and have been injured” by the resolution, “which conveys a message of religious hatred, intolerance and bigotry toward Catholics.”
 
On Nov. 30, 2006, District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel handed down a 16-page decision stating that the resolution did not violate the Constitution because the Catholic Church invited the condemnation by publicly opposing adoptions by homosexual partners.
 
Also in the ruling, Patel called Resolution 168-06 “a measured response” that “does not constitute excessive entanglement under existing case law” between church and state.
 
“There is no regulatory enforcement, no law adopted nor other action taken by virtue of the resolution,” she stated. “It is merely the exercise of free speech rights by duly elected office holders.”
 
But on Tuesday this week, Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center – a national Christian legal advocacy group appealing Patel’s decision – charged that the original resolution violated the First Amendment, which “forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs or of religion in general.”
 
“In total disregard for the Constitution, homosexual activists in positions of authority in San Francisco have abused their authority as government officials and misused the instruments of the government to attack the Catholic Church,” Muise said in a news release.
 
“Their egregious abuse of power now has the backing of a lower federal court,” he said. “This decision must be reversed.”
 
“Judge Patel attempted to rationalize the evocative rhetoric and venom of the resolution, which are sad reminders of Catholic baiting by the Ku Klux Klan,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the center, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
 
Matt Dorsey, press secretary for city attorney Dennis Herrera, told Cybercast News Service on Tuesday that San Francisco officials think the First Amendment was never intended to shield religious organizations from criticism.
 
“The issue before the court on Wednesday will be whether a nonbinding resolution made in response to a church organization’s position on an issue violates the separation of church and state,” Dorsey added, “not whether the First Amendment grants special protection to religious institutions.”
 
Nevertheless, the Thomas More Law Center noted that one week after the resolution passed, the San Francisco board voted – again unanimously – to condemn about 25,000 evangelical teens who gathered in the city to express their opposition to homosexual conduct.
 
Openly homosexual Assemblyman Mark Leno said the teenage group was “obnoxious” and “disgusting” and should not be tolerated. He told the Christian group to “get out of San Francisco.”
 
“The policy of San Francisco is one of totalitarian intolerance of Christians of all denominations who oppose homosexual conduct,” Richard Thompson said on Tuesday. “My concern is that if the judge’s ruling is allowed to stand, it will further embolden the San Francisco board in its anti-Christian attacks.”