Collision Course

The Archdiocese of San Francisco faced an agonizing choice: It could abandon its ministry to the poor and sick, or it could sacrifice a 2,000-year-old Christian moral tradition based on the clear commands of Scripture. The choice came courtesy of gay zealots, and it illustrates the collision course between the gay agenda and religious freedom. The clash began heating up last November when San Francisco passed a domestic partners ordinance. The ordinance requires that all contractors doing business with the city give health benefits to the partners of homosexual employees—just as they do to the spouses of married employees. One of those contractors is Catholic Charities, the social service arm of the Catholic Church. The city pays Catholic Charities $5 million each year to run programs that serve the poor. Among those programs is Leland House, a facility that provides loving care for dying AIDS victims. But requiring Catholic Charities to treat gay unions as the equivalent of marriage would have forced the charity to violate church doctrine. When the domestic partners law was passed, Archbishop William Levada asked the city to exempt Catholic Charities. He called for “reasonable” and “respectful” dialogue that would enable Catholic Charities to continue serving the poor while remaining faithful to church teachings. But reasonable and respectful dialogue was the last thing gay activists were interested in. They put the squeeze on Catholic Charities, even at the risk of shutting down a program that helped gays dying of AIDS. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! “There will be no exemptions” from the city’s domestic partners law, thundered P. J. Johnston, a spokesman for Mayor Willie Brown. And city supervisor Tom Ammiano accused Levada of trying “to impose [the church’s] beliefs... on those who do not share them.” Who’s imposing what on whom? The church considered a court challenge of the law, but ultimately a compromise was struck. Employees of Catholic Charities would be allowed to designate someone in their household as eligible to receive “spousal-equivalent benefits.” This “someone” could be a spouse, a sibling—or the employee’s live-in partner. The compromise allows the church to avoid sanctioning homosexual unions. But what was so important about this ordinance that gay activists were willing to sacrifice the poor and needy—even AIDS victims—in order to enforce it? The ordinance is important because it’s a means to an end. Domestic partners benefits help blur the line between marriage and all other consensual living arrangements. They’re intended to get us used to the idea that the traditional family has no special significance—that there’s no normative relationship for people who live together. Blurring the line between pairings is a prerequisite to gay activists’ number one goal: getting Americans to accept same-sex marriage. Christians need to understand this debate because it’s dangerous, not just in terms of how it could impact marriage, but in terms of what it could do to the First Amendment. As the conflict in San Francisco reveals, the church is right at the brink. There’s probably no farther we can be pushed in accommodating the state without sacrificing our core beliefs. Sooner or later the church is going to have to draw a line in the sand and say, “no more.”


Chuck Colson


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