Wednesday, February 16, 2011

US Supreme Court Asked to Review "Catholic League v. San Francisco"

Thomas More Law Center Goes to Supreme Court

On Tuesday, February 15, The Thomas More Law Center filed a petition (read here) with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that it reverse a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision of October 22, 2010, which upheld San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors’ virulently anti-Catholic resolution 168-06. Adopted unanimously on March 21, 2006, resolution 168-06 refers, among other things, to the Vatican as a “foreign country” meddling in the affairs of the City and proclaims the Church’s moral teaching and beliefs on homosexuality as “insulting to all San Franciscans, ” “hateful, ” “insulting and callous, ” “defamatory, ” “absolutely unacceptable, ” “insensitive and ignorant.”

The case has its genesis in the decision of at least two separate branches of Catholic Charities (Boston and San Francisco) to facilitate the adoption of children by same-sex households. Those actions compelled the Vatican, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to reiterate its 2003 statement, and instruct Catholic adoption agencies to stop placing children in same-sex households. On March 13, 2006, Cardinal William Levada wrote “The reasons given in the (2003)document, as well as the potential scandal for the faithful should an archdiocesan agency act contrary to the clear teaching of the church's magisterium, require that a Catholic bishop follow this clear guidance from the Holy See in his oversight of Catholic diocesan agencies." The Cardinal’s response to the actions of Catholic Charities resulted, a week later, in the issuance of Resolution 168-06, which in its turn resulted in the lawsuit of the two San Francisco Catholics and the Catholic League.

Today's TMLC press release announcing the appeal described the Ninth Circuit's October, 2010:

“This past October, in a fractured, eleven judge opinion in which 3 judges concluded that TMLC should prevail, 3 judges concluded that the City should prevail, and 5 judges concluded that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case, the Ninth Circuit ultimately affirmed the lower court.

As Circuit Judge Kleinfeld appropriately observed in his opinion, which, unfortunately, received only two additional votes:

The 'message' in the resolution, unlike, say, the message that might be inferred from some symbolic display, is explicit: a Catholic doctrine duly communicated by the part of the Catholic church in charge of clarifying doctrine is 'hateful,' 'defamatory,' 'insulting,' 'callous,' and 'discriminatory,' 'showing 'insensitivity and ignorance,' the Catholic Church is a hateful foreign meddler in San Francisco’s affairs, the Catholic Church ought to 'withdraw' its religious directive, and the local archbishop should defy his superior’s directive. This is indeed a 'message of . . . disapproval.' And that is all it takes for it to be unconstitutional.”

Richard Thompson, President of the Thomas More Law Center, noted an apparent incongruity in the court’s juruisprudence:

“The Ninth Circuit prohibits a government display of the passive symbol of the war memorial cross on Mt. Soledad, yet it expressly approves of the government’s explicit condemnation of Catholic religious beliefs. This outrageous double standard is made possible by the Supreme Court’s flawed tests by which it interprets the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment—an interpretation that is hostile toward religion.”

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