Sometimes I read real headlines from reputable news sources and I wonder if they’ve somehow fallen prey to some elaborate hoax or picked up a story from spoof news website The Onion. Usually I discover that the headlines are true, proving once again the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.
I had one of those moments yesterday when I came across this headline: White House petitioned to label Catholic Church a ‘hate group’. Before long, I had found the petition in question on the White House’s petitions website.
The petition was launched on — when else? — Christmas Day, and if it can receive 25,000 signatures by the end of next week, the White House will have to issue a formal response to the petition. On the current pace, which has seen fewer than 3,000 names added in the first three weeks, it stands no chance of reaching that threshold.
So what is the group alleging the Church that done that warrants its designation as a hate group? Catholic News Agency explains:
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 charged.
“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 Anti-Defamation League.
Many people aren’t too impressed.
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 Washington, D.C.
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.”
As it turns out, another group has launched a counter-petition, saying the group that started the original petition should be named a hate group for wanting the Church to be named a hate group. On a signatures-per-day basis, it is actually on a faster pace to get to 25,000, though it’s also a long way short of the target.