HB 1080 seeks to impose restrictions on religious groups, forbidding them from hiring staff based on religion, and adding "sexual orientation" to the list of characteristics against which it is prohibited to "discriminate" in employment.
HB1080 applies to religious groups that receive federal or state funding, which would include the organization Catholic Charities.
The bill, currently before the Colorado General Assembly, will place Catholic Charities in the position of having to close its doors, warns the Chaput.
While Catholic Charities purpose is to help the poor, not proselytize, it exists "as part of the religious mission of the Catholic Church," and not just for the sake of "generic do-goodism."
"When it can no longer have the freedom it needs to be 'Catholic', it will end its services. This is not idle talk. I am very serious."
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver is the largest non-government human services provider in the Rocky Mountain West area. Chaput said that Catholics had contacted him saying the bill is "offensive, implicitly bigoted, and designed to bully religious groups out of the public square".
Archbishop Chaput warned that the bill will "greatly hinder" organisations like Catholic Charities from maintaining their mission and purpose as specifically religious institutions. A Catholic agency must, he says, be able to retain its religious character in more than name. "Key leadership positions" the Archbishop maintains, "require a practicing and faithful Catholic, and for very good reasons".
House Majority Leader Alice Madden said, "This is about the types of jobs a religious group is using taxpayer money for. We're not trying to cause a great deal of problems, but when someone is funded by the government, we think they should follow the law."
Chaput dismissed this argument, calling it "nonsense" and "alien to American history". It is one, he says, that "assumes that partnerships to serve the common good between government and religious groups are somehow 'unconstitutional'".
Religious charities, he says, are funded by government, in part, because they are known to be the most cost-efficient way of getting assistance to the poor and needy. "Catholic organizations like Catholic Charities are glad to partner with the government and eager to work cooperatively with anyone of good will. But not at the cost of their religious identity."
Referring to an attempt in 2007 to impose a similar law, Chaput said, "People who are willing to serve the public because of their religious faith should not then be forced to compromise or ignore that faith in their service." The proposed law was amended to recognize the right of religious groups to hire according to their religious principles. The amendment to the 2007 bid was passed on a vote of 60 to 2. This amendment, Chaput said, "made sense as a matter of justice."
Archbishop Chaput urged Catholics to contact Rep. Madden and ask why her position has changed from one of support for the religious exemption amendment in 2007 to sponsorship of the current bill.
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