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God-O-Meter

catholicsunited.jpgCatholics United, a progressive Catholic group, is firing back at conservative Catholic Bill Donohue for characterizing Barack Obama’s Catholic advisory board as “Catholic dissidents.” Here’s the release it put out Friday:
Bill Donohue Still Playing on Karl Rove’s Team
Attack on Obama’s Catholic Advisory Committee Discloses His Partisan Agenda and Jeopardizes his 501c3 Tax Status

Washington- Today, Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a 501c3 tax exempt organization, issued a press release labeling Obama’s Catholic advisors as Catholic dissidents. By issuing this statement, Donohue not only jeopardizes his tax exempt status but also raises larger concerns over the use of his organization for a partisan agenda.
According to the book Onward Christian Soldiers by the Republican operative Deal Hudson, Karl Rove recruited Bill Donohue to participate in Republican organized efforts to court Catholic voters. By attacking the Catholic advisors of a presidential campaign at this moment, Bill Donohue is again engaging in partisan politics.
“When Bill Donohue talks about Catholic moral priorities and doesn’t mention war, torture or 47 million Americans without health insurance, he is clearly out of step with the Catholic church.” Said James Salt, communications director for Catholics United. “Bill Donohue criticizes Catholics that don’t agree with Bill Donohue, nothing more. To question whether someone is Catholic because they don’t agree with you is simply wrong and is a page straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook.”
“Ironically the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights pays Bill Donohue over $343,000 a year to defend the rights of Catholics – lay and clergy alike – to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination.” Said Salt, “To ‘defame’ fellow Catholics because they have a different political affiliation is disingenuous to the mission of the Catholic League and undermines its tax exempt status.”

This is a good time to note how much more pro-active Democrats generally and Barack Obama specifically have been in parrying attacks from conservative Catholic groups than the party and the Catholic John Kerry were four years ago. Part of that is because Obama has fulltime Catholic outreach and religious outreach directors tasked with monitoring such attacks and responding to them. The Obama campaign responded to God-o-Meter with a statement within hours of the Catholic League’s attack on Friday.
Kerry, by contrast, never had a Catholic outreach director. After she was attacked by the Catholic League, Kerry’s religious outreach advisor was actually barred from responding to the press. The Kerry campaign was worried that the advisor would only generate more negative publicity by talking to the news media.
When Kerry came under attack by a handful of Catholic bishops in 2004–some said publicly that they’d deny him communion because of his support for abortion rights–he lacked a network of Catholic surrogates who could testify to his Catholic bona fides. Obama, by contrast, boasts an entire Catholic Advisory Board to come to his defense, even if it has come under attack by the Catholic League. Obama has plenty of prominent Catholics to give him street cred among Catholic voters.
Finally, Kerry had few, if any, progressive Catholic groups who could come to his defense like Catholics United has for Obama in the face of this most recent attack. Catholics United wasn’t even officially incorporated at this time four years ago. Other progressive Catholic groups, like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, didnt’ exist. So the conservative Catholic League has a lot more competition than it did four years ago.
For all these reasons, God-o-Meter thinks the Catholic League’s attacks against Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party will be less effective than they were in ’04, when they were partly to blame for John Kerry’s losing the Catholic vote.


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