By Peter Montgomery
Originally posted 10/23/12 at Religion Dispatches
Quick, what organization was founded to support justice for immigrants, boasts nearly two million (all-male) members, and loves a good parade? The Knights of Columbus still support immigrants’ rights, but those sober-faced men marching down Main Street in full parade regalia are also part of an organization that was the single largest donor in support of California’s Proposition 8.
This venerable fraternal order has taken up the anti-equality baton in a big, flamboyant way.
The National Organization for Marriage provides organizational muscle to anti-equality initiatives and legislative campaigns. What gives them that muscle is money, and lots of it, from big donors. A new in-depth report released today by Equally Blessed, a coalition of pro-equality Catholic organizations, reveals that the Knights are among NOM’s biggest supporters.
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Roman Catholic fraternal order, with an astonishing $16.9 billion in assets. Its financial power comes from a huge and profitable life insurance business it promotes through local councils and parishes. It funnels millions of dollars to the pope and bishops’ conferences as well as to more service-oriented charities.
“The Strong Right Arm of the Bishops: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Equality Funding,” documents $6.25 million in direct Knights funding to anti-marriage equality campaigns at the national level and in a dozen states since 2005—and another $9.6 million to organizations that are working “to build a conservative religious and political culture to oppose efforts for marriage equality.” According to the report, among the biggest recipients of Knights funding are NOM ($1.9 million) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ($1.2 million). The report does not include figures for 2011 because the Knights delayed filing its tax reporting for 2011 until after the November 2012 elections.
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