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Cardinal George defends comment linking gay rights activists to KKK

Cardinal Francis George  |  Sun-Times files

Cardinal Francis George | Sun-Times files

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Updated: January 30, 2012 10:27AM

Cardinal Francis George is defending his recent comments linking gay rights activists to the Ku Klux Klan, saying he made “an obvious comparison” to groups like the KKK that have tried to stifle religious freedom.

In response, some gay rights advocates Wednesday called on George to apologize and resign. Those groups have labelled George’s comments everything from “hurtful” to “brazen” to bigoted.

The furor appeared to have died down after George’s initial KKK reference last week. His original comments came in the context of moving the route and time of Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade. The changes sent the parade in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel during Sunday Mass, causing potential traffic problems that worried the church pastor.

The time of the parade has since been moved back to noon to address the timing concerns.

George last week was interviewed on the topic by Fox News Chicago, saying: “You know, you don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism. So I think if that’s what’s happening, and I don’t know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor’s, you know, position on that.”

Linking the KKK to gay rights activism led to criticism of the cardinal. On Tuesday, he issued a statement on the Archdiocese of Chicago web site defending his comments.

“The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church,” the cardinal’s statement said. “When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route.

“When the pastor’s request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940’s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.”

Brian Richardson, a spokesman for Center on Halsted — a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community center — called George’s most recent comments “divisive and hurtful.”

“We look to leaders, especially faith leaders, to provide constructive and unifying ideas and themes,” Richardson said. “Instead of standing by those comments, (George) should repudiate them. It’s wrong to compare a pride parade to a Klan parade in any way. Pride parades were created to be inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, an Illinois gay rights advocacy group, said George should resign.

“The Cardinal’s words are hurtful to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Catholics and the entire LGBT community,” Martinez said in a written statement. “We renew our call for Cardinal George to issue an apology for his hurtful comments and respectfully ask him to resign.”

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