Saturday, October 27, 2012

Same Sex Marriage & Agricultural Sustainability

I hope that the title to this blog post attracted some interest and raised reader's curiosity.  Same Sex Marriage and Agricultural Sustainability?

I suppose that one could assume that I would be writing about the many dedicated farmers that are gay or lesbian (and there are many), but that is not my point.

I wanted to write about my dismay over the Catholic Conference of Bishop's decision to revoke a grant award to the well-respected non-profit organization, the Land Stewardship Project (LSP). The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) was founded in 1982 "to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop sustainable communities."  Since that time, it has done amazing work and gained national respect.

The grant award was not revoked because of anything that LSP did, nor did it concern any position taken by LSP. The grant was revoked because LSP is a member of two other organizations, TakeAction Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Those two organizations have taken a stand against Minnesota's constitutional amendment to limit marriage.

According to LSP:
In early July, the Catholic Bishops notified LSP that we had been approved for a $48,000 grant for our rural organizing in southeast Minnesota. Two weeks later we were informed that CCHD was reversing the decision to support our work unless LSP resigned its membership in two organizations: TakeAction Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. The reason given for withdrawing our funding was because of these organizations’ stated positions against the constitutional amendment to limit marriage that is going to be on the Nov. 6 ballot in Minnesota.
Confirming the news of the loss of the grant, the National Catholic Reporter noted that LSP has long been recognized for its work on behalf of family farms, stewardship of the land and healthy rural communities. And, it noted that it has worked successfully with Catholic organizations on many of these projects. During the farm crisis of the 1980's, I personally recall the support of these organizations to aid those in rural communities and help fight to save family farms. There was no "litmus test" to that support.

In the past, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has required that grant recipients not take positions that oppose Catholic teaching. LSP has agreed with this requirement and complied with regard to all previous grants.  But, the requirement that they not associate with any other organization that takes any stand that the Bishops oppose is a huge and coercive step further.

I find it even more offensive that the coercion involves an issue on the upcoming ballot, a political issue involving the state's authority with respect to civil marriage. The Church has taken a political stand, and it is making every effort to not only influence, but coerce the vote.

As a former Catholic and the product of 8 years of Catholic grade school and 4 years of Catholic college, I am profoundly embarrassed for the institution that I once supported. Today's male Church leaders attempt to filter every issue through the lens of sexuality and reproduction. The world is, and should be viewed as, a much, much bigger place. So much good work and so many good connections are being lost because of this myopic view. The Nuns on the Bus get that. The Leadership Conference of Women's Religious understand - their listing of issues of Justice include environmental issues, poverty, and sustainability issues that are not tied to the narrow issues of gay marriage, contraception, and abortion.  But, that's why they are in trouble with the Bishops.

In the spirit of full admission, if I were back in Minnesota, I would definitely vote against the constitutional amendment. I believe that constitutions are best suited to protecting liberties, and not for restricting them. And, I see no reason why the government should restrict one's decision on who they wish to love and become committed to. But, my views on the Church's intrusion into political affairs and coercive practices would be the same regardless.

In case anyone is interested in helping Land Stewardship Project make up for their unfortunate loss of the grant, here is a link to their funding letter.  A supportive donor has agreed to match contributions to help them recapture the amount of the grant.  I'll be contributing.

I should note that Agricultural Law, eclectic blog that it is, has a number of other posts linking marriage to agricultural law and policy.  They are listed as follows:

  • Keith Sealing raised the issue in a thought-provoking post on horse slaughter and "other-regarding" bans, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?  (Part Two).  In it, he likened the ban justification of “Your gay marriage demeans my straight marriage” to “You can’t eat horse meat because I am repulsed.”  


Blogger Jim Chen said...

Susan, you (and anyone else who writes for Agricultural Law) should always feel free to express your point of view, whether directly or by association. That is the message of this post, after all!

10/27/2012 5:05 PM  
Blogger Christine Heinrichs said...

CCHD's withdrawal of its support for rural people undermines its own mission. I am sorry to hear of this and hope CCHD will reconsider its position. Thanks, Susan, for publicizing this situation.

10/28/2012 11:38 AM  

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