SF Pols Condemn Anti-Prop 8 Church Vandalism

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 8, 2009

When vandals targeted a San Francisco church with anti-Proposition 8 graffiti, Catholic League president William Donohue fired off an article castigating San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, and the city's Board of Supervisors.

However, Newsom, and at least one City Supervisor, have condemned the vandalism at Most Holy Redeemer Church, something the article did not acknowledge.

Giving a shout-out to Donohue and The Catholic League in a posting of the text of a resolution by openly gay City Supervisor Bevan Dufty, GLBT blog site JoeMyGod declared, "Hey Catholic League, hey Bill Donahue [sic], looky here!

"Gay leadership in the city government IS condemning acts of vandalism against the church," the site continued.

"Will you notice and acknowledge Bevan Dufty's action?"

Donohue had written in a Jan. 5 article, "Part of the blame for the latest attack goes to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors."

Declared Donohue, "Both Newsom and the Board have shown nothing but contempt for the First Amendment rights of Catholics.

Added the Catholic League president, "When crucifixes are sold as sex toys and Catholic sensibilities are assaulted by naked men in the street at the annual Folsom Street Fair, they say nothing.

"When gay men dressed as nuns show up at Mass--at the same church--they say nothing.

"But the Board was quite vocal about condemning the Catholic Church in 2006, something which led to a lawsuit triggered by the Catholic League and the Thomas More Law Center."

Donohue did not acknowledge in the article that Most Holy Redeemer Church is an open and affirming--that is to say, gay friendly--church, located in San Francisco's predominantly gay Castro district.

The church was marked with spray paint. The pope and the Archbishop of San Francisco were both referred to, and swastikas were drawn on a wall of the church.

Donohue included a long list of incidents that either took place at anti-Proposition 8 demonstrations in isolated and specific instances, or else were assumed (without evidence) by anti-gay pundits to be the work of gays angered by the measure, which was narrowly approved by California voters last year, and which rescinded the right of gay and lesbian families in that state to marriage equality.

Anti-Prop. 8 rallies have taken place in hundreds of cities across America; the overwhelming majority of the rallies have been peaceful and without incident.

City Supervisor Dufty's resolution, as posted at JoeMyGod, read as follows:

"WHEREAS, Most Holy Redeemer Church, a Catholic community established in 1900 and located within the heart of San Francisco's Castro District, is widely known as a Gay-friendly parish; and

"WHEREAS, For over 20 years the community of Most Holy Redeemer Church has sustained an active AIDS support group providing direct care to persons with HIV disease and assistance to those who love and care for them; and

"WHEREAS, Most Holy Redeemer Church established a Peace and Social Justice Group to reflect upon and address issues of justice both inside and outside the church, particularly in response to sexism, homophobia, racism, and the willful failure to protect the poor and underserved; and

"WHEREAS, The Community Life Committee of Most Holy Redeemer is made up of various organizations in the parish that form the faith and build a deeper sense of community for all ages and interest groups in the parish and the extended local community regardless of religious affiliation; therefore, now be it

"RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco does hereby condemn the recent intimidation of Most Holy Redeemer Church and its parishoners through acts of vandalism, specifically the defacing of its exterior with spray-painted graffiti that included the names of church leaders and the depictions of swastikas; and therefore, be

"FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco commends the significant accomplishments and contributions made by the faith community of Most Holy Redeemer Church to the City of St. Francis."

San Francisco news resource City Insider posted a Jan. 7 article about the graffiti and Donohue's claim that the mayor and the Board of Supervisors were partly to blame for the actions of the vandals, noting that Newsom had issued a strongly-worded condemnation of the vandalism.

Newsom's statement read, "We strongly condemn the vandalism of the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.

"It was a cowardly and criminal act."

Continued the mayor's statement, "San Francisco is a city that embraces people of all faiths.

"To intimidate a community and threaten a place of worship with intolerance is contrary to everything the City of St. Francis represents."

The City Insider article noted that Newsom has "spoken publicly about his conflicted views of the church, but he's also openly condemned attacks on any religious groups based on their support of Proposition 8."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.