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March 13, 2010; Washington Post | The NPQ Newswire has covered the truly disconcerting position taken by Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. in its opposition to the District’s gay marriage law. At the outset, Catholic Charities—and the Archdiocese itself—vigorously opposed the pending statute, to the point of threatening to shut down its government-funded service activities such as running programs for the homeless because the law would require Catholic Charities, as a recipient of government money, to give gay spouses the same health and other benefits as non-gay spouses (the organization did get rid of its foster care program so that it wouldn’t have to tacitly approve gays as foster parents).

Since the law was passed, Charities then figured out a slick way of keeping its millions in government contracts while avoiding violating the law: it would deny spousal benefits to all new employees, gay or straight. Just to underscore its position, Catholic Charities has now added a new provision to its personnel policies. All new employees have to sign a promise that they will not “violate the principles or tenets” of the church.

To us, there’s little question about what this means. It’s a restraint on freedom of speech, it’s a gag order. It tells all new employees—and existing employees as well in a way—that if they speak or act against the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage, they risk being penalized or fired.

Catholic Charities is not the only organization to have this kind of religious sign-off. World Vision, which is a major foreign aid contractor and a vocal leading member of President Obama’s faith-based programs, requires all of its U.S.-based employees to sign a statement that they agree with the Apostle’s Creed. But the Catholic Charities position, at least in D.C., appears to be new—and specifically directed toward silencing opposition to the organization’s position against the District’s gay marriage law.

It’s one thing to oppose the District’s new civil rights-oriented treatment of gay marriage. But shutting up the dissenting voices of its employees sounds like yet another Catholic Charities violation, not of the tenets of the church, but of the basic principles and values of the nonprofit sector.—Rick Cohen