USCCB leaves civil rights coalition after Kagan endorsement highlights differences

Bishop William Murphy.
Bishop William Murphy.


Saying the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCR) has “moved beyond” traditional civil rights advocacy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced on May 19 that it is leaving the coalition. The conference cited the coalition's endorsement of Supreme Court nominees, including Elena Kagan, as a primary reason.

The LCCR, a coalition founded in 1950, says on its website that it worked for the passage of several major U.S. civil rights acts and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington.

The 1963 March was where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In a Wednesday press release, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre announced the withdrawal from the coalition and reiterated the bishops’ opposition to unjust discrimination.

“In light of recent events, it has become increasingly clear that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ continued membership in the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is not possible because of the LCCR’s expanded and broadened agenda,” explained the bishop.

Bishop Murphy chairs the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Peace.

“The interests of the Leadership Conference and those of the USCCB have diverged as the LCCR has moved beyond advocacy of traditional civil rights to advocacy of positions which do not reflect the principles and policies of the bishops’ Conference.”

Bishop Murphy reported that the coalition has joined in advocating or opposing nominees for the Supreme Court, a practice which “clearly contradicts” USCCB policy and compromises the bishops’ “principled positions.”

“The latest example of this is the LCCR support of the Solicitor General’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” the bishop added.

“The USCCB deeply regrets this action has become necessary and pledges to continue our ongoing work on civil rights, racial and ethnic justice, and the protection of human life and dignity.”

Bishop Murphy said the U.S. bishops will still work with those at the LCCR and elsewhere to oppose “all forms of racism, unjust discrimination and bigotry.”

He then quoted the U.S. bishops’ 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which condemns as “grave injustices and affronts to human dignity” discrimination based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, disabling condition or age.

According to the LCCR website, coalition members include religious groups, civic groups, unions and ethnic organizations. Some members are homosexual advocacy groups such as Lambda Legal and pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization for Women.

On May 18, the LCCR website also listed Catholic Charities USA and the National Council of Catholic Women as part of the coalition, however the names of the organizations have since been removed from the site.

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