San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, who is slowly being revealed as the chief architect of organized religion’s opposition to same-sex marriage in California, has issued his first statement since the vote.
“Religious leaders in America have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy,” Niederauer wrote in a statement posted on the archdiocese’s Web site. “Catholic bishops, specifically, also have a responsibility to teach the faith, and our beliefs about marriage and family are part of this faith.”
Niederauer, who has declined interview requests, wrote that “to insist that citizens be silent about their religious beliefs” would have had a detrimental effect on history, gagging the voices of important abolitionists and people in the civil rights movement. Niederauer’s statement, coming more than a month after the vote to ban same-sex marriage in the nation’s most populous state, underscored the complex role he plays. As archbishop of San Francisco, Niederauer is the ultimate teacher of Catholic doctrine in a region at the forefront of gay and lesbian rights.
During the campaign, Niederauer issued statements, sent flyers and gave a videotaped interview posted at www.marriagematterstokids.org. But Niederauer’s most prominent action was drawing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members responded with intensive grassroots organizing and an estimated $20 million in campaign contributions from individuals that accounted for half of the Yes on 8 campaign’s total.
Niederauer also called for end to the name calling: “Tolerance, respect and trust are always two-way streets and tolerance, respect and trust often do not include agreement, or even approval. We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. … We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.”