Monday, April 29, 2013

BS: Letter from Archdiocese of San Francisco on misstatement could have been written by a Karl Rove staffer

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileonoe
On March 21, 2013 San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told a reporter from USA Today "Ask the good people of Ocean Grove Methodist camp in New Jersey that had part of its tax-exempt status rescinded because they don't allow same-sex civil union ceremonies on their grounds." If you Google that sentence, you will find that it has made the rounds of Catholic media and blogs. No surprise there given that Cordileone is the Church's point man on extending marriage discrimination.

The following day, I wrote to the Archbishop (respectfully) noting that what he said was misleading. You can skip the next paragraph if you already know the details.


What happened is that a Methodist Church owns a catering hall that is not on church grounds. They requested  a local tax variance as a not-for-profit. There was a public hearing at which the pastor was specifically asked if he understood that the church would be operating a public accommodation. He agreed to comply with state and local non-discrimination ordinances. When the catering hall turned down a lesbian commitment ceremony the couple complained and the catering hall lost that local tax abatement.

Clearly the archbishop is suggesting that the catering hall was some sort of religious retreat. While "lost part of its tax exempt status" is technically true, it is misleading. More than a month later, I have received a reply. It was written by George Wesolek who is the Director of Communications and Public Policy for the archdiocese. It is CC'd to the Archbishop. We can split hairs over the tax exemption but Wesolek repeats the lie.
Yes, it is a religious camp as the Archbishop said, not a church.
No, it is not a "religious camp" at that was the point in the first place. It is a catering all that is open to the public     a public accommodation. What they have done is to turn what was possibly an error into an intentional lie. It seems that anything goes when it comes to preventing marriage equality. Then we get to the good stuff:
I gather you think stripping this religious group of a tax benefit on the grounds it was discriminating against same-sex couples was justified. We disagree much more on that, than the facts in this case.
[ ... ]
The Archbishop cares very much about accuracy and truthfulness. We only wish that media generally took the same care in reporting the the facts on the Catholic Church.
It's not what I think that is important. The owner of this catering hall (which happened to be a church) was in violation of the law. The self-victimization expressed in the second sentence has become part of the Church's culture.  I doubt that I will bother with a follow-up letter.
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