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VIEWPOINT Cardinal George and the KKK: Religious extremists live in Midwest, not just Middle East
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times

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Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, is not the only bigot hiding behind the heavy robes of religion, but he is a powerful leader in the Catholic Church, and therefore his words have more meaning and power than your average street preacher or member of the church choir.

In comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan—in his remarks about the potential disruption and inconvenience of the new Pride Parade route and start time—Cardinal George has gone too far, and he should graciously apologize, and step down from his post.

Dozens of local and national leaders and groups have spoken out against George, and some, too, are calling for him to step down. At the very least, they are asking for an apology.

Other religious facilities have long endured the Pride Parade passing their doors on Pride Sunday, with no "anti-religious" problems reported in four decades. In fact, religious groups, including gay Catholics, have been a part of Pride almost since it first began. Ironically, the KKK did march against the Pride Parade in its early years, and many spiritual people helped counter their presence.

But Cardinal George could not let the parade pass by his Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Belmont Avenue. He fought back, and did so using a vile comparison to the KKK. The Parade will still pass by the church, just at a later time. The change in time really is not what upset most LGBTs; rather, it was what George said about the KKK. He told FOX News Chicago: "You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

At this point, an apology is not enough. George has proven he is out of touch with the progress of the LGBT movement in this city and country, and he should pass the torch to a new generation of Catholic leadership. Like Joseph Cardinal Bernardin before him, George has tried to use the church's power to keep back civil rights; Bernardin lobbied against Chicago's gay-rights bill in the 1980s, and George has spoken out against gay civil unions and women's rights.

The fact is that while many people seek out religion as a safe haven, where they can do good work to help their neighbors, often church leadership seeks to divide, rather than bring people together. In this Christmas season, George's remarks sting particularly hard. Enough is enough, and George should not be allowed to take this hateful approach and still be a leader in his church.

What is most upsetting when religious leaders speak out, and even lobby against laws that protect LGBTs, is that they do so on an uneven playing field. Most are wealthy beyond our imagination, own properties on valuable land, and yet they pay few if any taxes. This not only makes it more difficult to fund our schools, police, fire and other public services, but it also places a heavier burden on every other citizen, religious or not. They get to have their free speech cake and not pay taxes, too.

Personally, I feel that if all religious groups paid their fair share of property, income and other taxes, I wouldn't be as angry when they spoke out against my right to equality. We would be equals stating our own opinions. But when a bully like Cardinal George gets to have a large forum to amplify his hate, and he does so off all our taxpayer backs, it is an unfair system.

The initial separation of church and state in this country was based on a strong need to eliminate potential harassment and undue influence over religion. But the opposite has happened. Religious groups influence our politics, and they do so with impunity from the law, and from the tax system.

See related coverage at the links:

Cardinal George compares Pride Parade to Klan gathering

News update posted Dec. 21, 2011

by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

After Catholic Church pressure, Pride Parade start time reverts to noon

News posted Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011

by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

Local and national groups sound off on Cardinal George

News update posted Dec. 23, 2011

by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times


About 150 supporters of same-sex marriage marched and rallied on the sidewalk across the street from the residence of Cardinal Francis George for Valentine's Day in 2004. The Catholic leader had spoken against the Illinois same-sex bill and equal marriage rights for gays. The rally in Chicago was part of a nationwide series of protests for same-sex marriage. 33rd Ward Ald. Richard Mel and his daughter Deborah ( now a state representative ) attended the rally and he Mel spoke in favor of same-sex unions. Photo by Tracy Baim

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