Thursday, November 12, 2009

Minnesota area Catholic Dioceses contributed to Maine ballot initiative

The campaign finance report for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine shows that four Minnesota area Catholic Dioceses contributed $6250 to a campaign to reject a law legalizing gay marriage in Maine. The ballot measure asked voters "Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"

The measure passed 53 percent to 47 percent in the November election. The Catholic Church considers homosexuality a sin and has worked actively to define marriage as between "one man and one woman" in states across the country.

The Diocese of Crookston donated $5,000 to the effort. The Diocese of Winona and the Diocese of La Crosse, WI gave $500 each. New Ulm's Bishop John Levoir gave $250.

Rose Hammes, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Winona, said the contribution was given because Winona Archbishop John Quinn felt it was important to help his colleagues in Maine:

"He made a contribution because they're in solidarity with all of the bishops in the country and I'm assuming that Bishop Quinn decided that that was important to be in solidarity with his brother bishops."

Hammes said the donation came from an account that is used to help efforts like the ballot initiative in Maine. She said the fund is from "private donations" not parishoner contributions.

I left messages with the Dioceses of Crookston and New Ulm but haven't heard back from them. A spokeswoman for New Ulm's Bishop just called me back and said "We have no comment."

Here's the campaign finance report.

For those wondering about tax violations, the IRS forbids tax exempt organizations from backing a political candidate but "can engage in a limited amount of lobbying (including ballot measures) and advocate for or against issues that are in the political arena. The IRS also has provided guidance regarding the difference between advocating for a candidate and advocating for legislation."

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