An online petition asking the White House to designate the Catholic Church as a “hate group” for its views on marriage is drawing criticism for generating unjust animosity.
The petition reveals an “underlying agenda,” which is not simply to
prevent violent crimes, but to “stigmatize any disapproval of
homosexuality at all and essentially to silence us,” said Peter Sprigg,
senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in
He explained to CNA on Jan. 3 that applying the “hate group” label to
organizations that are morally opposed to redefining marriage is simply
“name-calling designed to cut us out of the public debate.”
Initiated on Christmas Day, a petition on the White House website had collected 1,640 signatures by Jan. 3.
The petition – which is aiming for 25,000 signatures by Jan. 24 –
argued that Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 Christmas address to the College of
Cardinals “demeaned and belittled homosexual people around the world.”
“Using hateful language and discriminatory remarks, the Pope painted a
portrait in which gay people are second-class global citizens,” it
“Pope Benedict said that gay people starting families are threatening
to society, and that gay parents objectify and take away the dignity of
children,” the petition said. “The Pope also implied that gay families
are sub-human, as they are not dignified in the eyes of God.”
It called for the Obama administration to recognize the Catholic Church
as a hate group, as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the
However, Sprigg argued that the petition is “distorting” the Pope’s
words, which do not actually include hateful or discriminatory language.
In his address to the cardinals, the Pope did not directly reference
“gay marriage” or “homosexuality” at all. Rather, he defended the
Church’s understanding of sexuality and “the true structure of the
family, made up of father, mother, and child.”
The Holy Father refuted the modern notion of sex as “a social role that
we choose for ourselves,” rather than “a given element of nature” and
“bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being.”
The complementarity of male and female is part of “the essence of the
human creature” and is foundational to the nature of the human being and
the family, the pontiff explained.
Sprigg argued that the petition is misleading and “clearly has political purpose.”
“The federal government does not designate hate groups. It prosecutes
hate crimes,” he observed, explaining that a clear distinction must be
made between moral opposition to homosexual acts and violent crimes
against homosexual individuals.
Such labeling can also be dangerous, Sprigg said. Ironically, the hate
group label can actually create hatred toward the group being
designated, he explained.
He pointed to an incident last August in which a 28-year-old Virginia
man entered the Family Research Council headquarters, made a comment
about disliking the group’s politics and then opened fire, shooting a
security guard before being disarmed.
Family Research Council had previously been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said at the
time that such reckless labeling may have led the gunman to feel
justified in carrying out the shooting.
Sprigg reiterated this idea, highlighting the importance of allowing
people to express their differing views peacefully in a democracy.
Suggesting that organizations such as the Catholic Church and the
Family Research Council are hateful simply because of their views on
human sexuality promotes “a dangerous misconception,” he said.