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Monday, May 2, 2011

Supreme Court: S.F. Politicians Free to Denounce Catholic Church

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 4:37 PM

click to enlarge Heresy: The business of S.F. government?
  • Heresy: The business of S.F. government?

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a lawsuit brought by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights against the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, essentially settling the question of whether the supervisors were out of line when they passed a resolution denouncing the Catholic church's stance on gay couples adopting.

The lawsuit concerned a 2006 resolution in which the supervisors upbraided then-Archbishop William Levada for his "hateful and discriminatory" order that local Catholic charitable groups not place children for adoption with same-sex couples.

"It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City's existing and established customs such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need," the resolution stated.

Judicial responses have been mixed. While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has twice rejected the suit, the question of whether the Board of Supervisors had violated the "Establishment Clause" of the U.S. Constitution separating church and state was left open. At least one judge, Andrew Kleinfeld, wrote that the board had overstepped its bounds by condemning religious beliefs, writing, "Government cannot constitutionally prescribe a religious orthdoxy and condemn heresy on homosexuality, or anything else."

The Supreme Court doesn't comment on cases it declines to hear, so we don't know what the justices' reasoning was. But with their order, the lawsuit is at an end, and the supervisors are apparently free to condemn heresy as they see fit.

Correction: The original version of this post misstated the date of the Board of Supervisors resolution and William Levada's position at the time he issued his directive. The post has been edited to include the correct date and title.

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Peter Jamison

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