In February 2010 Cardinal Francis George, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement on New Ways Ministry, which is also part of the Equally Blessed Coalition. Cardinal George rejected the claim that the group presents an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and Catholic practice. "Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination," he said.
In October 2016 New Ways Ministries gave its Bridge Building Award to Father James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large of the Society of Jesus' America Magazine. The priest's lecture at the award ceremony was the basis for his book "Building a Bridge," on Catholic-LGBT relations
In 2016, the Arcus Foundation gave a one-year grant of $125,000 to Catholics for Choice, to fund a coalition of religious leaders to oppose "discriminatory religious exemptions," as well as a different coalition to oppose "religious intolerance" in southern and eastern Africa.
The U.S. bishops have frequently criticized Catholics for Choice, saying it is not affiliated with the Catholic Church. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, speaking as the bishops' pro-life chairman in September 2016, charged that it is "funded by powerful private foundations to promote abortion as a method of population control."
Arcus Foundation grantees have been linked to doctrinal changes within mainline Protestantism as well, including groups that helped split the Anglican Communion. In 2011 and 2012, the Arcus Foundation provided financial support to raise the national profile of Center for American Progress' expert V. Gene Robinson, whose controversial election as the Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 helped split the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion.
Non-Christian religions are also a focus.
A June 2015 grant of $100,000 to Muslims for Progressive Values suggests religious exemptions sought by some Muslims are also unacceptable to the foundation. The grant listing voiced hope that the group's advocacy at the United Nations would assist "in asserting that 'religious exemptions,' such as reservations on the basis of Sharia law, are unacceptable on matters of human rights."
CNA took a screenshot of the Arcus Foundation's grant listing to Muslims for Progressive Values in mid-2016. Since that time, the grant listing on the foundation website appears to have been changed to read simply "general operating support," rather than directly listing advocacy against religious exemptions. The grant is one of several six-figure Arcus grants to the group, including one given to cultivate LGBT activists among imams and other Muslims
Kevin Jennings, a co-chair of Muslims for Progressive Values, is a former Arcus executive director and Obama Administration official. Reza Aslan, the controversial Iranian-American author of the book "Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," is a consultant for the group, according to its website.
Fighting Religious Exemptions
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In 2016, the Arcus Foundation gave the ACLU a $150,000 grant to implement "a national coordinated media and public-education campaign to beat back religious exemptions at federal and state levels."
This year, the foundation gave a $300,000 grant to the Proteus Fund's Rights, Faith and Democracy Collaborative. The collaborative brings together wealthy activists who aim to restrict legal protections for religious freedom, in order to advance its vision of reproductive health and LGBT causes. According to CNA's examination of grant listings and tax forms, the collaborative's donors and others have spent at least $8.5 million in projects to advance a similar, narrow vision of religious liberty.
The Proteus Fund's Civil Marriage Collaborative, which worked to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, closed in 2015 after spending more than $153 million over 11 years on various U.S. projects.
The Arcus Fund has given grants totaling $300,000 to Faith in Public Life: one to rally faith leaders to advocate "fair and balanced" religious exemptions, especially in the states Georgia, Florida and North Carolina; and the other for "pro-LGBT public education campaigns" and to organize "moderate clergy to inform state and national policymakers about the negative impact of using religion to deny the civil rights of LGBT people."
A $125,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to Columbia University's gender and sexuality law center backs the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project "to promote progressive and nondiscriminatory views on religious exemptions." This builds on Arcus' previous support for the project, whose co-sponsors have included the deeply influential Ford Foundation.
Another $200,000 has gone to the ACLU, including support for its "religious refusals" communications hub and for ongoing research to gauge what it considers to be "the harm of anti-LGBT religious refusals."