Denver, Colo., Jun 4, 2014 / 01:44 am
The Catholics United Education Fund, a Democrat-leaning advocacy group which began criticizing Church opposition to same-sex "marriage" in 2012, received most of its operational budget that year from a gay activist foundation run by influential multi-millionaire Tim Gill.
"I would say it is very obvious that Mr. Gill does not agree with the Catholic Church and Her teachings on the issues of homosexuality and marriage," Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told CNA May 29.
"His attitude toward the Church on these issues is definitely one of extreme disagreement."
Tax forms show the Colorado-based Gill Foundation made a $100,000 grant to the Catholics United Education Fund in 2012 for "general operating support." The Catholics United Education Fund's tax forms show that its entire revenue for that year totaled $111,819. The Gill Foundation's 2012 annual report lists the education fund grant in its "communications projects" section.
The Gill Foundation's founder and chairman, Tim Gill, is former CEO of the software publishing company Quark, Inc. Gill has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into charitable donations and political activism to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) causes.
At a 2008 meeting of the Democratic National Convention's LGBT Caucus, Gill told delegates from around the U.S. to target their political donations to where they will most likely change the outcome of elections, at the state or local level, in order to stop the careers of their political opponents at an early stage.
He urged activism to ensure Democratic control of state legislatures and to win "the battle for the soul of the Republican Party."
Gill's targeted spending and alliance-building work have been credited with helping change the political landscape in his home state of Colorado, in addition to several other states. He has also backed "gay marriage" advocacy across the U.S.
Kraska told CNA that Gill is a "culture warrior" in the sense that "he has a very clearly stated goal to change culture to become accepting of gays and lesbians and he is using his power, influence and money to enact that cultural change."
She said that the acceptance of the grant gives the perception that Catholics United "shares a common goal with the Gill Foundation and does not have any issues with positions and activities the Gill Foundation is involved with that are in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Church."
"Likewise I would find it hard to believe that the Gill Foundation would give that much money to an organization that was operating with goals and objectives completely contrary to their own."
Catholics United had largely avoided openly challenging Church teaching on marriage until October 2012, when it attacked the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, for supporting ballot measures to defend the legal definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Catholics United claimed the Knights of Columbus, which has 1.8 million members in 14,000 councils worldwide, was funding a "far-right political agenda" against "marriage equality."
However, the Knights have been following the lead of the Catholic bishops, including their Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who specifically urged the defense of marriage in a November 2012 essay in Columbia magazine. In an August 2013 message, Pope Francis invited the Knights of Columbus "to bear witness to the authentic nature of marriage and the family."
"The main thing to know about Catholics United is that they have a history of taking and advocating for positions that are direct contradiction to the bishops and Church teaching," Kraska told CNA.
Catholics United continued to promote "gay marriage" in a March 2013 press release claiming that those who oppose the legal recognition for same-sex unions lack biblical support. On May 27, 2014, it criticized a Catholic high school in Georgia for firing a teacher who had posted to Facebook his intention to "marry" someone of the same-sex.
The organization appears to be following the lead of well-funded groups in other Christian denominations.
John S. A. Lomperis, United Methodist director at the Institute for Religion and Democracy, told CNA June 2 there is a pattern of the major "very wealthy gay rights organizations," including the Gill Foundation, working to pursue "major, concerted efforts to engineer 'hostile takeovers' of American religious communities for their agenda."
"Thus, some of the most powerful secular political forces in America have been pouring significant amounts of money and energy into attempts to internally influence America's churches."
He pointed to the Gill Foundation's support for the Movement Advancement Project, which in 2006 convened a coalition of major LGBT groups "to plot pro-gay strategy within various North American denominations."
The Gill Foundation's 2006 annual report said this project conducted a study that "detailed work underway in denominations, seminaries, clergy coalitions and media to counter religious opposition." The report noted the project's collaboration with the Arcus Foundation in "funding work involving religion and values."
The Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire LGBT activist Jon Stryker, is a known donor to groups that campaign against Catholic teaching, including Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry and the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual.
"These are secular, political organizations with little interest in things like helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ," Lomperis said. "But they understand that Christian churches in America are the last significant bulwark of dissent from their social agenda."
The first reported incident of cooperation between Catholics United and the Gill Foundation appears to have taken place in April 2012, when Catholics United groups protested the withdrawal of a Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant to the Colorado-based immigrant aid group Companeros.
The Catholic campaign – an initiative of the U.S. bishops – withdrew the grant because the immigrant aid group maintained membership in a coalition that supports the legal recognition of homosexual relationships.
The Gill Foundation subsequently gave a $30,000 matching grant to the immigration aid group while Catholics United Education Fund gave $7,000.
Catholics United expanded into Colorado in 2012, adding a state chapter. In April 2014, the national group's website announced that its education fund is seeking to hire a full time organizer in Pennsylvania to organize "social justice Catholics who are willing to engage in the public debate on social justice issues, especially as it relates to LGBT equality, labor solidarity, environmental protection, and immigrant rights."
The organization claimed 50,000 members as of 2014.
Catholics United was founded in 2005. As a 501(c)(4) organization, it may participate in political campaigns under tax law. It had total revenue in 2012 of about $150,000, slightly more than its 501(c)(3) education fund.
Both Catholics United groups are headed by James M. Salt. CNA contacted Salt for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
Lomperis said that even without groups acting as "outside agitators," his denomination would still have LGBT activism "from a minority of United Methodists."
"But these internal dissenters' efforts to undermine the church's faith and morals from within would not have been nearly as powerful if they did not enjoy the generosity of their secular allies in the form of direct donations, strategic and media assistance, and other 'in-kind' support."
He noted the Gill Foundation-backed Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation provided communications and media support for an LGBT activist Methodist coalition at the United Methodist Church's 2012 General Conference, the denomination's global policymaking gathering.
Lomperis said the tactics of Catholics United appear to be somewhat different.
"They seem to be savvy enough to recognize that the Church's official teaching, for a global one billion members, is not going to be changed by a bunch of outside agitation in one country. But there seems to be an effort to change the 'public teaching' of the Church."
While the Church's official teaching might remain the same, he said, activist tactics "seem to basically intimidate, bully, and put all kinds of emotional pressure to silence bishops and other parachurch Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus."
He suggested that Catholics United and like-minded groups have tried "to do everything they can" to "pressure and undermine" Catholic organizations, to deter them from "any efforts to support traditional Christian teachings on issues like sexual morality or the sanctity of human life."
Catholics United has also been involved in election issues.
Ahead of the 2012 elections, Catholics United wrote to priests in Florida saying it was monitoring alleged illegal political activity in churches. Salt, the group's executive director, claimed there had been "numerous IRS violations" in local Catholic parishes. The group claimed to have recruited "a network of local volunteers to monitor parishes and document the nature of all partisan activity taking place there."
The Gill Foundation grant is the second-largest publicly-recorded grant that Catholics United groups has received, according to a CNA analysis.
The Gill Foundation's tax forms for 2012 also show a $25,000 grant to the media strategy group Faith in Public Life's "Faithful America" project. The project has organized petitions protesting individual U.S. bishops' comments.
The Gill Foundation declined to comment to CNA.
CORRECTION 3:04 PM MST June 5, 2014: A previous version of this article erroneously identified Faith in Public Life's "Faithful America" with a group with the same name that is is sponsored by the CEL Education Fund. That group is currently leading a petition campaign against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's new morals clause contract for teachers in its Catholic schools. CNA regrets the error.