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No, Rep. Mike Kelly, protecting children from bigotry is not “anti-religious”

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1Mike Kelly Photo R No, Rep. Mike Kelly, protecting children from bigotry is not “anti-religious”
Rep. Mike Kelly is weaponizing religious freedom.

Rep. Mike Kelly, a devout Catholic and Notre Dame alum, likened the passage of the Affordable Care Act — the largest expansion of healthcare in 50 years — to the attack on Pearl Harbor, fumbling FDR’s famous line, saying, “I want you to remember August 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a date that will live in infamy along with those other dates.”

He also claimed that President Obama is running a deep state “shadow government” and has likened EPA emissions rules to “terrorism.”

So anything the man says needs to be examined with a healthy dose of skepticism, including Kelly’s op-ed published in The Washington Examiner last week.

Kelly’s target is the City of Brotherly Love, which has a policy of not allowing outfits that discriminate to serve as foster care agencies. Put another way, Philadelphia requires that those agencies adhere to non-discrimination policies.

But for Kelly, non-discrimination is “anti-religious,” so much so that his op-ed headline reads: “Motivated by anti-religious ideology, Philadelphia is separating families.”

In this strange, Orwellian age America is suffering through, it apparently needs to be stated for the record: a policy of non-discrimination is not anti-religious, it’s anti-discrimination.

Kelly’s op-ed is just another attempt to redefine the nature of religious freedom. It’s an attempt to weaponize religious liberty. FFRF has been ringing the alarm bell on the attempt to redefine religious freedom and I’ve been writing about it for years. We made that argument to the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. But still, the weaponization marches on.

The op-ed is a fearmonger’s word salad and is unworthy of a point by point rebuttal. But the broader issues with religion, discrimination, and orphan care have been with us for a while and are worth examining.

We’ve often heard that religion does so much good: “Look at all the hospitals its built.” (Never mind that Red Cross was started by a freethinker, and that taxpayers get the bill for many services in “religious” hospitals). Motivation matters. The motivation of the religious groups is important in deciding the social value and utility of the service they provide. Are the religious groups providing foster care because they love and care for their fellow human beings, or are they doing so as a means of propagating their religion? I think it’s the latter.

Kelly himself admits that, in Philadelphia, religion is the central issue, not the welfare of children. Even without that admission, we’ve seen this play out in the recent past.

Back in May, Kansas and Oklahoma passed laws that give child placement agencies the right to discriminate against LGBTQ parents. Supporters of these bills, such as Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, said that if they were not granted a license to discriminate, it would result in the “forced closure” of religiously affiliated agencies that could not choose to place children solely with households that share the agency’s values. (Back in May, I appeared on the Opening Arguments podcast to discuss these two bills and said much the same thing there.)

Pause to appreciate how disgusting the Catholic stance on this is. They are holding orphans hostage by saying, “If you don’t kowtow to our bigoted holy book and our prejudiced god, these orphans won’t get any home at all.”

This is not a new problem. In November 2011, after Illinois legalized civil unions —  meaning Catholic Charities could no longer discriminate against adoptive gay couples — the religious charity opted to shut down altogether. Instead of helping those kids find loving homes, with two parents of the same or opposite sex, it abandoned 1,000 children. In other words, putting children in loving homes was less important than a book’s ugly claim that homosexuality “is an abomination.”

If they were motivated by a desire to help orphans they would be doing so. It seems more likely that they were motivated by a desire to spread their faith to a vulnerable population.

I have little doubt that if Philadelphia successfully defends its anti-discrimination policy against this attempt to redefine religious freedom, Catholic Charities will shut down. If it can’t impose the backward values of the bible, it won’t help orphans. “Suffer the little children,” indeed.

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