September 16, 2010; Source: Street Roots blog | This year, the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. determined that Street Roots, a nonprofit newspaper which advocates for homelessness issues, would no longer be eligible for its $5,000 to 10,000 annual grant because of a half-inch description of a nonprofit health care provider in the Street Roots’ Rose City Resource, which lists more than 300 agencies and programs for people dealing with homelessness and poverty.
The egregious half-inch item was a listing for Planned Parenthood and its services including contraception. According to the Archdiocese, CCHD could no longer fund Street Roots with Planned Parenthood in the booklet because that violated Catholic teachings.
Street Roots is a nonprofit newspaper sold by homeless vendors, comparable to Street Sense in Washington D.C., Community Connection in Los Angeles, and Street Pulse in Madison, Wis., among many others. This tiny paper, where 75 cents of every dollar contributed goes to the homeless vendors, has been a grantee of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) for the past five years.
Maybe this kind of small grant wouldn’t phase most nonprofits, but every nickel—or every five grand—counts for a homeless-serving nonprofit newspaper that showed on its most recent Form 990 total annual revenues of $237,000. Street Roots not only told the CCHD it would keep the Planned Parenthood listing (and therefore forego the CCHD grant), but it launched an investigation into what was behind the sudden CCHD shift in grantmaking policy—in this case, defunding an asset to the homeless over a one-inch squib in a resource booklet.
Street Roots will publish its CCHD investigation in its September 17 issue (not available online yet), revealing an organized conservative movement “within the Catholic community that [is] using allegations of doctrinal and political offenses to defund community organizing, social justice, and the empowerment of the poor.” According to Street Roots, more than 50 CCHD-funded organizations have been labeled “anti-Catholic”.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops now faces pressure from within the church to change its historic funding of community organizing and social justice groups deemed to violate some versions of Catholic orthodoxy. This isn’t the first defunding of theological violators in recent years. A homeless service provider called Preble Street was defunded by the Archdiocese of Portland, Maine this past Spring because it was “exposed”, according to the American Life League, for “promoting” same-sex marriage.
The American Life League and others keep a list of groups to be defunded, and last October added six organizations, including the Southwest Organizing Project because it “encourages birth control through ‘comprehensive’ sex education,” the Chicago Workers Collaborative because it participated in the Socialism 2009 conference, Voces de la Frontiers, which had the opportunity to publicize the “Gay Neighbor.org” program of Equality Wisconsin, and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center of Cincinnati which had the temerity to list the National Organization of Woman and the International Socialist Organization plus “several pro-homosexual groups” as “friends and colleagues.”
It doesn’t take many activists to push any large organization to watch out for its flank—even one as large as the Catholic Church. We congratulate Street Roots for its courage in turning down a grant—a sizeable sum for a group its size—and for its dogged investigative journalism to see who was behind the CCHD change in policy.—Rick Cohen