By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 26, 2010 ( – The U.S. Catholic bishops have come out in full force against the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). They say they can no longer stay neutral on a bill that they charge will lead to the Roe v. Wade of traditional marriage in the United States, and trample on the rights of employers and those speaking the truth about homosexuality.

In a letter sent to Congress on May 19, and obtained by the Jesuit-run publication America, representatives of the Catholic bishops said that their concerns over the current forms of ENDA making their way through the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 3017) and the U.S. Senate (S. 1584) are so serious that “we cannot maintain the position of neutrality we held in 2007.”

The letter, sent by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., Chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, stated that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was opposing ENDA. They said the law would pose serious danger to marriage, religious liberty, privacy, the right to speak the truth about homosexuality in the public square, the rights of employers to act “consistent with that truth,” and the right of individuals to associate freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The bishops indicated that they have wised up to the fact that state ENDA laws have been integral – even a necessary last step – for state courts to have a legal basis for imposing a constitutional right to same-sex “marriage.” A federal ENDA would serve to lay the necessary groundwork for building a federal constitutional right to same-sex “marriage,” imposed nationwide, they warned.

“These rulings also reflect a legal strategy that gay rights advocates have repeatedly and publicly explained in scholarly articles and other media — first, secure the passage of sexual orientation antidiscrimination laws, such as ENDA, and then invoke the principle embedded within those laws as a basis for same-sex ‘marriage,'” the letter states.

“If this strategy were to succeed, it would represent a legal and moral disaster comparable in many ways to Roe v. Wade. As leaders of the Catholic Church, we have a moral obligation to oppose any law that would clearly contribute to this outcome,” they declared.

“In contrast to sexual conduct within marriage between one man and one woman — which does serve both the good of each married person and the good of society — heterosexual and homosexual conduct outside of marriage has no claim to special protection by the state.”

They also said that giving the Church a religious exemption would not allay their opposition to the bill. They noted that applying Title VII prohibitions on religious discrimination does not extend to all religious employers, and that they have been taught by “recent experience” that even covered institutions like the Church “may face government retaliation.”

They highlighted the the rights of non-religious employers as well, adding that the “bill also lacks an exemption for a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’ (BFOQ), for those cases where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclination.”

They also stressed strongly that ENDA would jeopardize the right to teach the truth about homosexuality – and for employers to act in accord with that truth – with the “threat of government sanction.”

“We recognize that no one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including sexual inclination,” said the church leaders. This right comes from the revelation that all persons are “created in the image and likeness of God” and therefore “possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected, by other persons and by law,” they said.

The letter concluded by saying that the USCCB could never support ENDA, but was open to “further discussion” on developing legislation protecting those with homosexual inclinations “from unjust discrimination, without protecting homosexual conduct.”

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