Sunday, February 20, 2011


In an editorial in the Archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Review (Feb 17, 2011), Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien made an appeal to Maryland Catholics to "speak out" as the General Assembly considers a bill, which would extend the right to marry, without regard to gender.

I am happy to "speak out" and do so in support of the bill, S.B. 116, which the Archbishop opposes.

Archbishop O'Brien wishes to exclude a category of citizens from the benefits of civil law - people who love each other.

The Archbishops's targets, victims, actually are people, who desire publicly to bond themselves to one another in a civil - not a church - union, and thereby undertake all of the privileges and responsibilities which a civil marriage entails.

All this comes as the Roman Catholic Church continues to have to apologize for failing to shield children and vulnerable adults from sexual predators in the ranks of the clergy and church employees.

Apologies are good, but the best way to deal with victims is not to create them in the first place.

Just as the backward look of today requires an apology to children abused by pedophile priests, the Catholic Church of the future will apologize for its official assault on the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens.

After Archbishop O'Brien is gone, a successor will tell us that the church was simply following "legal advice" - which is what Cardinal Keeler said, on his way out the door, about the winking and nodding this Archdiocese did when criminal pedophiles were discovered but promoted or transferred, when these predators ought to have been prosecuted and removed from ministry.

But . . . back to the immediate issue, the attempt to deny civil rights to a category of citizens.

Literally o one is suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church be required to conduct, to sanction or to recognize gay marriages as a sacrament or as a religious rite.

The Church is free to follow its own rules in this regard. Unfortunately, this is not enough for the hierarchy of the Church. Unwilling to impose strict rules of behavior upon its own caste of ordinands, the hierarchy proposes to impose exclusionary rules upon the citizenry, Catholic or no.

It provokes sadness to hear the Archbishop, titular head of a most diverse community of believers, to advocate a Gospel of Exclusion.

No one in a position of respect and high regard ought to be caught advocating the denial of civil rights to some citizens - rights which are enjoyed by others.

This is a peculiar posture for the Archbishop to adopt because few other Catholics seems to agree with the Archbishop. Where are the clergy? Where are the Religious Orders? Where is the laity? Do we read of daily Catholic denunciations of the homosexual and lesbian "disorder" in our midst?

Of course not. Why not? Such denunciations correctly would be considered unseemly, prejudiced, hypocritical.

Nor do we (often) hear of gay persons denied a place of service in a local parish. Or told not to put something in the collection plate.

No one but a disconnected, isolated hierarchy would advocate such a cruel, biased, self-defeating public policy as the denial of civil rights to anyone.


On what basis does the Archbishop make the case that some citizens be denied rights that others enjoy? Archbishop O'Brien relies on a misreading of societal and also church practice, history, tradition and science.

Forgetting that the Roman Catholic Church has, in the past, authorized and benefitted materially from human slavery, Archbishop O'Brien appeals very broadly to past practice, which he now declares, exhibited an unwavering sanction of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Forgetting that the Roman Catholic Church, my church, segregated itself in the South, after the Civil War, the Archbishop appeals to a fictional, all-embracing, welcoming tradition. The welcoming tradition has been hard fought. Surely, Archbishop O'Brien knows this.

Forgetting that polygamy was practiced by Hebrew Patriarchs and sanctioned in the New Testament as an instrument of God (Gal 4:22-25), the Archbishop writes that "the union of one man and one woman" has been "bestowed" . . . by societies throughout human history."

Forgetting that the civil doctrine of adoption, to say nothing of science, is able to bring children to childless couples through a variety of means, Archbishop O'Brien writes that marriage "originates in a simple biological fact. The union of one man and one woman is the only relationship capable of creating children and nurturing them together as father and mother."

Archbishop O'Brien writes that "marriage is a joining of man and woman, involving the gift of offspring, has been the cherished standard of Western culture, time immemorial."

This is nonsense. "A joining of man and woman" has not always and forever been the standard, not even in Maryland. And not of the Roman Catholic Church.

In the provincial era, "the joining of man and woman" was criminalized - if the man happened to be Black. In that case, by Act of the General Assembly, an indentured woman, who had a child with a male slave indeed, would be united - in perpetual slavery. This "one man and one woman" would be consigned together to a lifetime of servitude to the White men who made the rules - as would the couple's offspring.

I have discovered no occasion when a presiding Catholic prelate in Maryland Province raised the slightest objection to the enslavement of English women, who consorted with male slaves, or proclaimed church doctrine to require freedom for the male slaves themselves.

I ask the Archbishop, quick to proclaim perpetual social and religious truths in the interests of secular legislation he prefers, to produce such statements and also to certify that no Pope and none of Archbishop O'Brien's predecessors in the archdiocese of Maryland owned slaves, or ordered Catholic clergy to conduct wedding cerimonies between slaves or between slaves and freed persons - all this being, we are now told "the cherished standard of Western culture, time immemorial."

Such assurances cannot be made in the face of the shameful historical record.

Catholic laity, priests, bishops, popes and religious orders, all have owned slaves. Papel bulls (Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontifex) sanctioned human slavery, justified the enslavement of native populations and the taking of their property.

So much for the lately proclaimed Roman Catholic embrace of the sanctity of human life.

The predecessors of Archbishop O'Brien preached neither an end to slavery nor the unvarying freedom of one man and one woman to marry - the doctrine the Archbishop proposes, now, has ever been the standard of both society and the Church.

The head of the Church in Maryland ought to exercise caution in editorializing about the novelty he now proposes as having always been taught and practiced by the Church. This is especially the case when the Archbishop sets about to exclude some citizens, rather than to include all, in the protections of the civil law.


The Archbishop is correct when he states, "In the view of the American Catholic bishops, marriage between one man and one woman, with a view toward family, is a basic human and social institution."

True. This is the expressed view of the American Bishops, relying in their turn on bad doctrine, bad history, bad science and proclaiming, in their turn, a Gospel of Exclusion.

Wishing to invoke the powers of the state to enforce the Church's doctrine of exclusion, the Archbishop writes that, "Marriage, whose nature and purpose are established by God, can only be the union of a man and woman. The law should not have it otherwise."

Do we really want our legislature to adopt legislation because it is endorsed by God?

Laws ought to be considered and then adopted or rejected by application of reasoned, stated policies, which every citizen can understand and consider, irrespective of the policies and the practices of any particular church.

Quite regularly, civil society adopts new standards of inclusion, which the churches subsequently adopt. One of these innovations was the recognition that civil marriage may not be barred to anyone based on race. This was not church doctrine in Maryland or in America until after it was already the law of the land.

Doubtless, the churches, including the Catholic Church, will once again follow the innovations of civil law and acknowledge marriage between people who wish to entwine their lives, withiout being subjected to demeaning and selective inquiry into gender.

The Catholic hierarchy ought to lead on this one, just as it ought to have led the fight against human slavery in America, but did not. Just as the hierarchy ought to have led the marches against segregation, burt failed to do so.

As was the case with the end of slavery and the end of segregation, the Catholic hierarchy will be dragged along, belatedly recognizing the civil rights of all citizens, making yet one more awkward, embarrassingly tardy, accommodation to "modernity" - a word that has become a four-letter word to far too many prelates in our day.

The Archbishop's rhetoric of exclusion is not strengthened by the groundless assertion that heterosexual married couples are in some way penalized if civil marriage is extended to all. Where is the penalty? Where are the voices of all those couples, who feel threatened for their own marriages, if gay couples marry?

Nor is the Archbishop's case against gay marriage strengthened by an appeal to Pope Benedict, who has announced that homosexuality is "a disorder," and who probably has done more damage to the repute of the Roman Catholic Church, since the days when Popes struck medals for Catholic kings, who slaughtered religious dissenters.

Nor does science support the hierarchy's harsh and unreasoned rejection of human beings.

Here, as in other matters, such as the manipulation of canon law to deny children protection from pedophile priests, Pope Benedict is wrong, and the Archbishop with him.

Expanding civil marriage rights and privileges to all does not strip marriage "of its unique connection to parenthood," as the Archbishop asserts. People who want to marry to have children can still do that.

But that is not the point Archbishop makes. He argues that having kids is the soul legitimate reason for getting hitched.

If having children were the gold standard for marriage, than both the church and the state would bar older couples or infertile adults from marriage. Neither the state nor the Roman Catholic Church maintains such an absurd and blatantly hostile prohibition.

The Church's embrace of the marriage of older couples completely refutes the Archbishop's desire to exclude gay couples from the benefits of the civil law, on the ground that they cannot give birth to children.

Nor does the proposed law of inclusion erase "the right of a child to a mother and father," as Archbishop O'Brien argues.

Just as many children suffer in homes where contention and abuse exist and where the couple are heterosexual, many children already are growing up in the loving homes of gay men and gay women. There is no evidence that such kids are being harmed or made to suffer the slightest limitations.

These kids benefit from "healthy marriages" including the benefits the Archbishop listed in his editorial and implied are limited to heterosexual couples:

• More likely to succeed academically;

• Physically and emotionally healthier.

• Higher rates of physically and emotionally healthy citizens; and

• Higher rates of educated citizens.

Theere is no evidence at all that these benefits are automatically extended to children, whose parents are heterosexual and automatically deprived from children whose parents are gay.

The Archbishop laments the depiction of any who opposes extending marriage to all as "a religious zealot or, worse, a bigot."

But the counter position, advocated by Archbishop O'Brien, would exclude a civil benefit - the right to be married - to individuals, whom the Archbishop would characterize as 'disordered' and unfit to be parents, whether by adoption or other means.

This is bigotry. No better word for it.

The adamant position which Archbishop O'Brien is advocating has more to do with what lies ahead: institutions and agencies affiliated with the Church will not be able to discriminate in hiring and in spousal benefits enjoyed by employees or clients. Nor will Catholic schools be able to bar children whose parents are gay.

A few months ago, a child attending a parochial school in Boulder, Colorado, was banished from school because her parents are a lesbian couple. ("Sacred Heart of Jesus Rejects Kindergartener"

Do we want to see such discrimination occur in Maryland? Of course not.

When a child can be barred from a classroom in a Catholic school because her parents are gay, then statements about the "dignity" of gay persons ring hollow indeed, as do the Archbishop's concluding remarks in his editorial.

Let us practice inclusion even if the head of the Roman Catholic Church - my church - preaches exclusion.

I am hoping that enough Catholic voices can be raised in support of inclusion and against exclusion, to keep the hierarchy from pulling the whole Church further down into an intolerable, narrow, rhetorical ditch, from which she cannot extricate herself.

Already, there are too many hate groups in society. The Roman Catholic Church must not become one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House Republicans Cut Anti-Terrorism Funding

From ThinkProgress (see link below) 

House Republicans Cut Funding That Protects Us From Nuclear Terrorism

On Feb 11, 2011 ". . . House Republicans put forth a “continuing resolution” (CR) to fund the government past March 4th that was filled with spending cuts

"While this came as no surprise, one focus of the cuts is causing some heads to turn. House Republicans are choosing to significantly cut the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nonproliferation programs, the sole purpose of which is to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on loose nuclear weapons and materials. 

"While Republicans have talked about the need to inflict pain in their budget, doing so in a way that increases the risk of the nuclear annihilation of an American city is perhaps taking the pledge too far.

[. . .]

The danger of a terrorist acquiring nuclear materials is very real. A softball-sized amount of highly enriched uranium can demolish an entire city. Yet in many countries, nuclear materials remain highly insecure, leaving them susceptible to theft. For years nuclear materials have floated on the black market and it is known that Al Qaeda has sought to purchase them.

[. . .]

The amount of funding required for these programs is also a drop in the bucket when compared to the current cost of the wars in Afghanistan and the total Pentagon budget.

Link to the report at ThinkProgress:

ThinkProgress » House Republicans Cut Funding That Protects Us From Nuclear Terrorism

Friday, February 11, 2011


The following e-mail exchange was prompted by a Feb 9 2011 article in the Baltimore Sun:,0,1140373.story


Senator Jacobs,

I read in the Sun paper this morning (Feb 9 2011, article about testimony on Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act) that you think a confectioner ought to be able to turn away members of the public, who are gay.

Do you also think a business - any business - ought to be able turn away a customer who is Jewish?

You are speaking the language of hate.

I look forward to your response, which I will publicize - including a non-response.


Mr. Cook,

Thank you for taking the time to write me. 

Unfortunately the Sun newspaper has misattributed part of their story to me and took the other attribution out of context in which I asked the question. 

Let me preface my response by noting that you are certainly entitled to your beliefs and I sincerely appreciate you sharing them with me—even in disagreement.  I do not believe my language is hateful.  I believe, taken in context, it brought up a very serious issue that goes to the core of the freedom of religion.  Let me explain.

First, of course I do not believe a business should turn down a Jewish customer in most circumstances.  In fact, I think businesses would be crazy to turn down any business in these troubled economic times. 

With that said, in keeping with your example regarding the Jewish faith, I would say its fine for a Rabbi to refuse to perform a wedding for a Protestant/Muslim/Atheist/etc couple and vice versa.  At issue is the question of whether a religious-oriented business (wedding officiate, wedding confectioner, photographer, etc) should be mandated to take on commercial enterprise that fundamentally goes against the foundations of their faith and beliefs.  In these situations, I do believe that the business-owner’s freedom of religion plays a pivotal role in their selection of clientele and in these limited situations I think it is acceptable.  (As noted in the story, state law already prohibits hotels, motels, bars and restaurants from refusing clientele based on sexual orientation). 

Additionally, as I’m sure you’re aware; there are instances where some organizations and businesses do work with select clientele beyond just religious beliefs.  For instance, I’m sure you’re familiar with 55+ communities or ladies night at bars. 

In regards to the second example cited by the Baltimore Sun about the hypothetical court clerk, that was asked by another senator on our committee.  I do not know why the Sun attributed the quotation to me.

While I realize you may not see eye-to-eye with me, I value you taking the time to write me.  The free exchange ideas is the bedrock of our democracy and I welcome civil disagreement with the same gusto I accept agreement.


Nancy Jacobs  


COMMENT: The free practice of religion extends to the clergy prerogative to solemnify or to decline to solemnify a marriage by conducting a religious ceremony. 

But the practice of religion does not permit the government to invoke a gender test upon citizens and to forbid from marrying those citizens who fail a test of their gender. 

The courthouse must remain open to all citizens, without any citizen being subjected to an inquiry into gender.

During the era of slavery and segregation, private businesses invoked personal and religious privilege, what today might be called a "conscience exception," to deny freedom and public services to African-American citizens. 

The analogy to improper denial of state services, not the analogy to a clergy privilege, is the way to think about whether citizens ought to be free to marry, without regard to gender. 

A gender prohibition to marry, based on a state inquiry into gender, is unfair in principle and unenforcible in practice. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baltimore Sun Opinion Writer Affiliated with a Hate Group

On February 1 2011, the Baltimore Sun opened its Opinion page to a column by Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council. (Marriage's public purpose: raising children - )


The Baltimore Sun did not tell its readers that the Family Research Council has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

Why not?

The Southern Poverty Law Center, has this to say (emphasis added) about Peter Sprigg:

" [. . .] anti-gay propagandists at FRC include Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies, who joined the organization in 2001. Sprigg authored a 2010 brochure touting “The Top Ten Myths about Homosexuality.” In the brochure, Sprigg claimed that ex-gay therapy works, that sexual orientation can change, that gay people are mentally ill simply because homosexuality makes them that way, and that, “Sexual abuse of boys by adult men is many times more common than consensual sex between adult men, and most of those engaging in such molestation identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.” He also claimed that “homosexuals are less likely to enter into a committed relationship” and “less likely to be sexually faithful to a partner.” Sprigg’s sources are a mixture of junk science issued by groups that support ex-gay therapy and legitimate science quoted out of context or cherry-picked, a tactic long used by anti-gay groups to bolster their claims about gay people. Several legitimate researchers, like NYU’s Judith Stacey (a source Sprigg uses), have issued public statements condemning the practice and requesting that anti-gay groups stop misrepresenting their work.

"In 2004, Sprigg and FRC Senior Research Fellow Timothy Dailey co-authored the 2004 book Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows About Homosexuality. In it, they repeat claims that gay men “commit a disproportionate number of child sex abuse cases,” that homosexuals are promiscuous, and that lesbians exhibit “compulsive behavior.” Much of the book’s content can also be found in separate articles put out by the FRC.

"In March 2008, Sprigg responded to a question about uniting gay partners during immigration by saying, “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than import them.” He later apologized, but in February 2009, he told Chris Matthews, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.” “So we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked. “Yes,” Sprigg replied."

Questions for Mary J Corey, Baltimore Sun Vice President for Content ( )

1. Why did the Baltimore Sun give op ed space to someone who is affiliated with a hate group?

2. Why did the Baltimore Sun permit Mr. Sprigg to identify himself with the Family Research Council, without advising Sun readers about this groups's decades' long record of hateful rhetoric? 

For more information about the Family Research Council, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center webasite and search "Family Research Council."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


A GOP freshman delegate in Annapolis is proposing a requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. 

For details, check out an article from

Delegates debate requiring photo ID to vote –

Is voter fraud a big prob in Maryland? Nope.

Is voter fraud a big prob around the country? Nope.

Then what problem is Frederick County Delegate Kathy Afzali's, proposed bill intended to solve?

Well, there are a lot of racial minorities voting in Maryland, and nationally, and in growing numbers. 

Lots of these folks don't vote for the GOP, which is increasingly taking on the appearance of a hate group. 

Just as GOP elected officials don't like immigrants, or women or gays, they don't like voters who will not vote for them, under any circumstances.

This is the "problem" that Delegate Afzakli has discovered, and wants to solve by turning away voters, who are inclined against pulling the lever for her Party. 

And no wonder. 


Six years ago, the government of Mexico moved to provide universal health coverage for its citizens, at a cost of $12 billion a year. Mexico is not there yet, but is getting there.

If our neighbors countries, north and south, can do this, so can the US.

Here is a link to a NY Times piece, with more details. 

Mexico’s Universal Health Care Is Work in Progress -