It's been revealed that the Catholic Church is one of the biggest funders of campaigns against same-sex marriage in the US.
A new report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) found that the Church has spent at least $1.1 million "as part of its broader effort to deny loving, committed couples the right to marry" in the states of Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington.
The issue of same-sex marriage in these states is set to be decided on by voters in referenda in November.
“The Catholic Church hierarchy has positioned itself as the leading religious organisation funding discrimination against LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
The HRC report found that a significant portion of the Catholic-affiliated funding - more than $640,000 - comes from the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organisation within the Church which has an established history of using its money to fight marriage equality.
In addition, said HRC, a close ally of the Church, the National Organization for Marriage, has spent nearly $1.4 million on campaigning in the four polls. Together with the Church they make up around 60% of the money going towards the anti-gay campaigns.
In Minnesota alone, the opposition to marriage equality has received more than $180,000 from Catholic dioceses across the nation.
"Much of this funding likely came without the knowledge of parishioners; and as diocesan schools and important programs like soup kitchens struggle for resources, the Catholic Church has instead chosen to fund hateful, misleading political campaigns targeting loving, committed couples," stated the HRC.
“Perhaps most disturbing is the number of local parishes redirecting the hard-earned dollars of its members in the name of discrimination,” added Griffin.
“The majority of Catholics support equality for LGBT people – they want their dollars funding things like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and domestic violence programs; not discrimination against people several states away.
“The Church hierarchy owes the laity an explanation as to why they are spending this much money on discrimination, and at what cost to other crucial Church programs,” Griffin said.
A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality.
“Our Catholic social teaching calls for us to work for a more loving, compassionate, and justice-oriented world for all. It does not call on us to discriminate against anyone,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, a Catholic leader with Equally Blessed and executive director of DignityUSA.
“Unfortunately, the anti-LGBT activities of the Church hierarchy stand in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics.”
Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly attacked same-sex marriage in his speeches and has warned that it could lead to the end of human race.