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Head of U.S. Bishops’ news service: religious freedom laws are ‘pro-discrimination’ and ‘stupid’

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Catholic News Service Editor-in-Chief Tony Spence

WASHINGTON, DC, April 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews)—The director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, the news service of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has tweeted statements decrying religious freedom  laws and promoting the LGBT agenda.

Over the past few weeks, Tony Spence, who has been head of Catholic News Service (CNS) since 2004, published statements on his Twitter feed criticizing North Carolina’s bathroom privacy law.  The law prevents men from accessing women’s bathrooms.

“#LGBTprotections get flushed as NC governor signs bill over #bathroomwars,” Spence tweeted on March 24.

On March 28, Spence tweeted the link to an article about Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of a religious liberty bill.  Spence tweeted, “Too bad the NC Republican gov didn’t call him last week for a consult.”

The failed Georgia bill would have “prohibit[ed] discriminatory action against a person who believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage.”

“Stupid is evidently contagious,” Spence tweeted on April 7. “Tennessee tries to join MS, NC, IN in passing pro-discrimination laws.”

On March 8, Spence tweeted an article about the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles.  The article, Transgender Catholics hope to build bridges in the Church, promoted and explored transgenderism in the Catholic Church. 

“Fascinating story from #LACongress: #TransgenderCatholics hope to build bridges in church,” Spence tweeted.

“Tony Spence referred to common sense legislation that reflects Catholic teaching as 'stupid.'  Given this, Spence is also calling the Holy Father 'stupid,' who specifically rejected transgender and homosexual ideologies,” Michael Hichborn, President of the Lepanto Institute, told LifeSiteNews. “In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created.’  Pope Francis then rejected transgender [ideology], which he said ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.’”

Hichborn continued:

Spence's comments place him directly at odds with the Catholic Church he was hired to serve.  While the bishops of the United States are taking a public stance against the forced imposition of same-sex marriage and transgender ideologies and while these same bishops are trying to stand up for religious freedom, the head of their communications firm is crying out against them.  As long as Spence is at the helm, these bishops may as well be spitting in the wind.

Hichborn, who reported and detailed Spence’s tweets, also noted Spence has tweeted that “Holding it is not an option” regarding a Catholic school’s ban on transgender students, and that Spence called same-sex adoptions “rights” when he tweeted an article about proposed legislation in Italy.

Spence’s office told LifeSiteNews that he declined to comment.

North Carolina’s bathroom privacy law was passed partly in response to Charlotte, North Carolina’s city ordinance allowing men to access women’s bathrooms and vice versa.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte issued a joint letter asking the state legislature to overturn the ordinance, writing in part:

This issue is principally about safety. Beginning in April, in the City of Charlotte, any man will be able to walk into a women’s locker room without recourse, so long as he claims a female sexual identity. That same man could follow a child into an opposite sex bathroom. While this poses obvious safety issues, this violates diocesan policies associated with our Safe Environment programs.

The city ordinance also does not protect the rights of religious institutions, such as churches, Catholic schools, and charities….

Other cities may follow Charlotte. As the Catholic Bishops with jurisdiction over the State of North Carolina, we stand against this ordinance and encourage the state legislature and the governor to show courage by passing a law that protects individuals and religious institutions.  

This opportunity is taken to express the teachings of the Catholic Church, namely that all people are created in the image and likeness of God and should be cared for with love, compassion, and understanding. We can live out this teaching while also protecting children and all women and men—as is our moral obligation.

In February 2015, during the battle over the Charlotte ordinance, Bishop Jugis said, “I pray that the City Council will provide all of the people of Charlotte with an ordinance that respects our constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.  God made men and women different; as a society, we should respect that difference.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has lobbied against legislation that rejects the biological basis of gender and equates sexual orientation with race.

CNS has previously published an article by the head of an organization that has given hundreds of millions of dollars to elect pro-abortion politicians and written favorably about a pro-partial birth abortion politician.

In 2005, CNS published a movie review praising the pro-homosexual film Brokeback Mountain: “Director Ang Lee tells the story with a sure sense of time and place, and presents the narrative in a way that is more palatable than would have been thought possible. The performances are superb. Australian Ledger may be the one to beat at Oscar time, as his repressed manly stoicism masking great vulnerability is heartbreaking, and his Western accent sounds wonderfully authentic.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops changed the film’s classification from L (limited adult audience) to O (morally offensive) following backlash for what was perceived as an implicit endorsement of the pro-gay film.

In 2007, then-St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke called a Catholic News Service review of the anti-Christian film The Golden Compass “most defective.”  The USCCB Film Office had praised the movie as an “exciting adventure story” and “entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching."

“The review has by now been removed from the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The review was not based on a viewing of the film by bishops and was not endorsed by the bishops," Burke wrote.

In 2009, as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican, Burke again criticized CNS.

“The bishops need to look at our Catholic News Service; they need to review their coverage of [the Church's moral and social teachings] and give some new direction,” Burke said.

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