Several Catholics are included among President Barack Obama’s announced appointments to his advisory council on faith-based partnerships. However, the appointees also include a homosexual activist who has described the Pope as a “discredited leader” and the Knights of Columbus as “foot soldiers” of an “army of oppression” because of their opposition to same-sex “marriage.”
Anthony R. Picarello Jr., General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was announced as an appointee on April 6. A former head counsel and executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Picarello has litigated several major religious freedom cases. He is a 1991 graduate of Harvard University and received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995.
Picarello joins Fr. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, who was appointed to the advisory board in February.
However, President Obama also appointed to the board Harry Knox, a leader with the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
A former licensed minister of the United Methodist Church, Knox directs the HRC’s religion and faith program.
He said in a statement on the HRC web site that he was “humbled” by the appointment.
“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the Administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development. And, of course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people.”
Some activists have pressed for anti-discrimination requirements to be added to federal grants for religious organizations which perform public services. The change could force some religious groups to decide between receiving government funding and preserving their religious identity.
According to CNSNews.com, Knox has described Pope Benedict XVI and certain Catholic bishops as “discredited leaders” because of their opposition to same-sex marriage. Though granting the Knights of Columbus’ “good works," Knox also called the organization’s members “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression” because of the Catholic group’s support for the successful California ballot measure Proposition 8. Proposition 8 restored the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman.
Knox’s remarks, reportedly made to the Bay Area Reporter, also criticized the Pope’s comments on condoms and AIDS.
He also told CNSNews.com that he “absolutely” stands by his criticism of the Pope.
Another appointee to the advisory council, Bishop Charles Blake, is the Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, California. A member of the U.N. New World Ecumenical Movement on Gay Rights, he is also a signatory to the 2008 “Faith in Human Rights Statement,” which world religious leaders signed to mark the 60th Anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Other appointees include Dalia Mogahed, author of the book “Who Speaks for Islam,” and Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
In a December 29, 2008 essay for the New Republic, Diament recommended that President Obama include religious exceptions for policies which advance homosexual causes as a way to placate the fears of those opposed to them.
“Obama could be the first president to not only promote the expansion of gay rights, but also forge their durability by including religious protections within those very same laws. This would go a long way toward assuaging of those who view gay rights as a threat to their religious liberty.”