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This ain't no homeless shelter, it's the Vatican. (Jean-Christophe BENOIST/Wikicommons)
Last month the Catholic Church dumped a Sacramento, CA homeless shelter from their list of supported charities because its director—in her own personal life not as a representative of charity—had expressed her support for women's freedom of choice and marriage equality.

They're at it again, this time cutting off assistance to poor Latinos in Colorado.

From the New York Times:

DENVER — For three years now, Compañeros, a small nonprofit organization in rural southwestern Colorado, has received thousands of dollars from the Roman Catholic Church to help poor Hispanic immigrants with basic needs including access to health care and guidance on local laws.

But in February, the group was informed by a representative from the Diocese of Pueblo that its financing from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops devoted to ending poverty, was in danger.

The problem, the diocesan liaison explained, was Compañeros’s membership in an immigrant rights coalition that had joined forces with a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy group, recounted Nicole Mosher, Compañeros’s executive director.

Mosher also was quoted as saying:
“I was shocked that our money was all of a sudden in jeopardy, and confused about why. We have no reason to believe that we are in any way going against Catholic teachings. If they are willing to defund our program based on an affiliation, it sends a clear message of divisiveness.”
This is more divide and conquer politics. "You want our money? You better have the same antipathy for gays as we do."

Why would a Latino advocacy group be aligned with an LGBT group?

Well, of course there is the obvious answer that Latinos are gay too, they are not exclusive communities, but inclusive. And there are not an insignificant number of Latino people would would like to see LGBT people attain first class citizenship—for themselves, and for their friends and family.

In fact, a new Pew Poll released on Wednesday shows 59% of Latinos support marriage equality. This runs very contrary to what the Catholic political action group National Organization for Marriage would like you to believe.

Also noteworthy is yesterday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would forbid employment discrimination against LGBT people with the force of federal law.

And of course, one of the most pressing Latino concerns being a comprehensive immigration reform, something both the Latino and LGBT communities have an interest in. It is just smart politics for both communities to stand united in supporting one another's policy goals.

This is the first volley in what will eventually be a big battle if our lawmakers ever get around to comprehensive immigration reform. Many LGBT and Latino groups are already in agreement in their wish list for the a comprehensive reform package. Latino groups will doubtlessly be under fierce pressure from the Catholic Church and other religious conservatives to abandon their gay friends and family and allow binational LGBT couples to continue to face the threat of separation by deportation.

Throughout the efforts to pass the Dream Act in 2010, it shouldn't have escaped anyone's notice that many of the most committed, effective and outspoken activists, known as the "Dream Kids" were themselves, gay and lesbian. People like Felipe Matos. And the straight ones were in no way inclined to toss their friend's interests under the bus.

Felipe
Dream Act activist Felipe Matos (right) and his American boyfriend flank AmericaBlog's
Joe Sudbay at Netroots Nation 2011 (AmericaBlog)
Perhaps one of the most satisfying panels I attended at Netroots Nation 2011 explored the intersectionality and mutually supportive relationship between the LGBT community and The Dream Kids. (Video is available here.) Severing this powerful alliance is a top priority of the religious right.

The Roman Catholic Church is clearly sending a message to the Latino community, "You want our money to house and feed your poor? You must dissociate yourself from your LGBT allies."

The desire to separate LGBTs from Latino allies is not speculation it is an expressed goal.

Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, senior fellow at the Family Research Council, an extremist Christian group, was quoted about Religious Right's demands for supporting immigration reform. He told the New York Times in July 2010:

…the whole effort could implode if the final legislation extended family reunification provisions to same-sex couples where one spouse did not have legal status. For evangelicals, he said, “That would be a deal-breaker.”
The good news is the power of the Catholic Church's purse is increasingly waning. In response to the Catholic Church cutting off the Sacramento shelter, compensatory donations flowed in fast and furious. The Sacramento Bee reported days later:
By Friday morning, people from Sacramento and across the country had contributed some $8,000 to the nonprofit group, and the checks and telephone calls continued throughout the day.

"We've been swamped," said Michael Miiller, a member of the agency's corporate advisory board. "The generosity has been incredible."

It was the generosity of people who saw what the top priority is feeding and sheltering the homeless, not hating on gay people.

It is too bad that is not a priority the Catholic Church shares anymore.

I guess it's more important the Church save their money for passing discriminatory state constitutional amendments. They are currently the biggest funder of the effort to add a discrimnatory anti-gay amendment to Minnesota's state constitution.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis & St. Paul and the Catholic Dioceses of New Ulm contributed $700,000 last year to support an anti-gay Minnesota constitutional amendment.
Fortunately Compañeros is standing strong and not caving to Catholic bully tactics. From the Times, (emphasis mine):
Theresa M. Trujillo, the vice president of the immigrant coalition’s board, said she was concerned at the “degrees of separation” that could lead to a loss of funds.

“The Catholic Church is punishing Compañeros for having a relationship with an organization that has a relationship with an organization whose mission it is to have equality for L.G.B.T. folks,” Ms. Trujillo said.

Compañeros’s board recently voted to remain a member of the immigrant coalition, despite the prospect of losing $30,000 in annual financing, which comprises about half its budget.

Said Ms. Mosher: “We can’t go against our core principles by taking money that we think will ultimately result in the division of this community.”

Catholic leadership may have their principles, and apparently so does Compañeros.

Increasingly, the Catholic Church is making it very clear their charity only extends to people who share their all of their conservative political beliefs, and other people can just starve or sleep on the street. Perhaps it's time for them to rebrand with a more honest name? Maybe "Catholic Charities For Only Conservative Extremists," so at least their donors aren't misinformed about what they are supporting.

Fortunately, some of the Church laity have their priorities straight, even if leadership does not. A counter-effort has been kicked off for Compañeros by a group of progressive Catholics over at Catholics United. The folks at Catholics United are grateful to Compañeros for not backing down on their committment to all members of the Latino community and are raising money for Compañeros, to help offset their new budget hole. Perhaps those donations will be redirected from the Catholic collection plate?

Donations to Charity For All can be made here.

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 10:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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