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D.C.'s battle of church and state

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Regarding the Nov. 12 front-page article "Catholic Church gives D.C. ultimatum," about the city's proposed same-sex marriage law:

As a person who is proudly gay, Catholic and a regular reader of the Gospels, I know that Jesus Christ said his followers would feed the poor and render to Caesar what is Caesar's, but he mentioned nothing about same-sex couples. Perhaps the local hierarchy should focus more on performing works of mercy and less on denying rights to their fellow citizens.

In Spain and Canada, Massachusetts and Iowa -- countries and states with strong Catholic traditions -- the Catholic Church has survived the introduction of same-sex marriage. It is likely that the church will do so in the District as well. The church's same-sex teachings are not dogma, but the command to love one another is.

That the D.C. Council and mayor are poised to lend government structure to encourage stable marriages without regard to sexual orientation is a good thing and should be encouraged by the Catholic Church as it hopes to improve society.

Thomas Bower, Washington

The writer is secretary of the board of directors of Dignity/Washington.

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D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) accused the Archdiocese of Washington of being "somewhat childish" and expressed the hope that "they will not really act on this threat."

Ms. Cheh needs to understand that church teaching on human sexuality is doctrinal -- like the divinity of Jesus or the triune nature of God. It is not open to interpretation, nor is it open for debate.

The church is not "blackmailing" the city, as Peter Rosenstein, of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, has accused it of doing. It is simply stating what will necessarily occur if the D.C. Council passes the same-sex marriage law without amendment.

I am sure the archdiocese hopes to be able to continue its work for those in need in the District, but I am also sure that it will not compromise its beliefs to do so.

Deborah Wallace, Fairfax

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Aside from raising more questions about the morals of an organization to which the right to discriminate against gays is more important than helping people, the Archdiocese of Washington's threat to cancel its social service contracts with the city illustrates again why any "faith-based initiative" is a bad idea.

To a secular "help the homeless" charity, helping is its only mission. To a religious one, helping is not its top priority. Doctrine, at some point, cannot help but get in the way -- it's like a built-in conflict of interest. The Founding Fathers were right to separate church and state, but more than 200 years later, those institutions are still infringing on each other.

Any organization with which the government contracts must be secular. Religious ones carry too much baggage.

Hal Schwartz, Gaithersburg

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