Follow the Money: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Politics

Jim Burroway

October 18th, 2012

Moments ago, the Equally Blessed coalition of four Catholic organizations who support full equality for LGBT people issued a new report (PDF:1.3MB/38 pages) detailing heavy financial involvement of the Knights of Columbus in various anti-marriage initiatives across the U.S. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization similar to the Masons which defines itself as a charitable organizations, has developed a solid reputation for funding a large number of social support and genuinely charitable works.

But since 2003, the Knights has become an increasingly political organization, pouring almost $6.3 million directly to anti-marriage efforts since 2005. In addition, the Knights spent more than $9.6 million in what the report classifies as indirect support for fighting same-sex marriage, including such areas as educational, theological and spiritual programs to support the position of marriage as one-man/one-woman. For example, the Knights has contributed $1.5 million to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has mounted legal challenges to marriage equality on the grounds that it infringes upon the religious liberties of those who oppose it. Other recipients of what the report calls indirect support for anti-marriage efforts include the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family ($6.3 million), the Federalist Society ($130,000), Morality in Media ($150,000), and the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society ($75,000) which sponsors the World Congress of Families.

As for the direct contributions to anti-marriage fights, the Equally Blessed report indicates that the Knights was a major contributor to ballot measures in California, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, Washington, Maryland and Maine. The Knights became involved in anti-marriage fights in 2005 when they donated $100,000 to DOMA, Inc, which was fighting for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the Kansas Constitution. The Knights was not just the largest single donor to DOMA, Inc., their donation made up 80% of the total $126,000 raised by DOMA. That proposed amendment passed in April 2005 by  70% to 30%.

In 2008, with marriage amendments on the ballot in four states, the Knights stepped up its game considerably. In 2008, the Knights contributed $1,150,000 to out of a total of $39 million raised to strip California’s gays and lesbians of their rights to marry. The Knights also contributed $200,000 to support Florida’s successful fight in Amendment 2, and $100,000 to pass Arizona’s Prop 102. The Knights also contributed $250,000 in a failed effort to promote a constitutional convention to impose a marriage equality ban.

The Knights has also given significant resources to state Catholic Conferences and other organizations to run public relations campaigns against marriage equality. In 2008, at the same time that the Knights contributed $1.7 million directly to state battles to ban same-sex marriage, they contributed an additional $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage. With those expensive state-level campaigns over in 2009, NOM became the recipient of $1,430,000, the single largest grant that the Knights have made to date for anti-marriage efforts. NOM, in turn, donated almost $2 million to the effort to turn back marriage equality in Maine. That same year, the Knights contributed $169,000 to Family Institute of Connecticut Action to air “religious freedom” ads on local media in their fight against same-sex marriage. (That year, the state legislature modified their marriage laws to conform with a 2008 state Supreme Court mandate requiring Connecticut to provide same-sex marriage.)

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops naturally have also been the beneficiaries of the Knights’ largess. Beginning with a $50,000 grant to the USCCB in 2007, the Knights have poured almost $1.2 million to the USCCB’s coffers through 2010. That is in addition to some $300 to state level Catholic organizations.

The report from Equally Blessed was based on the Knights’ IRS-990 tax filings through 2010. Because the Knights have exercised their rights to delay filing their 2011 tax returns until November 15, 2012, the report does not include Knights expenditures for that year. But by examining the campaign filings of marriage opponents Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington campaigns, Equally Blessed was able to tabulate that the Knights have contributed over $635,000so far, with allocations ranging from $250,000 in Washington and Maryland to just $1,135 for Maine.

The report only covers donations made by the national Knights of Columbus. It does not include donations made by individual Knights chapters across the U.S. The full list of donations for direct fights against marriage equality shown below are taken from Table 1 of the report. The report also includes a separate table showing donations for indirect support for marriage quality fights.

Amount Purpose
2005 100,000 DOMA Inc. for constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in Kansas
2006 25,000 Various state-level marriage protection initiatives
2007 150,000 PA Catholic Conference for marriage protection initiative
50,000 MA State Council for marriage protection initiative
50,000 Family Institute of Connecticut for marriage protection initiative
50,000 US Catholic Conference of Bishops for National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage
2008 1,150,000 to support Proposition 8 in California
500,000 NOM to support the mission to be a national resource for marriage-related initiatives
275,000 Connecticut Catholic Conference to promote a constitutional convention for a marriage equality ban
200,000 Florida Family Action to pass Marriage Protection Amendment
100,000 to pass Proposition 102 in Arizona
50,000 Catholic Conference for the “Future Depends on Marriage” campaign
35,000 NJ Catholic Conference to produce DVD for nationwide use to oppose marriage equality
2009 1,430,000 NOM to support the mission to be a national resource for marriage-related initiatives
418,000 US Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Defense of Marriage
169,000 Family Institute of Connecticut Action for “religious freedom” ads
50,000 Stand for Marriage Maine to ballot initiative to overturn legalization of marriage equality
25,500 Family Institute of Connecticut for administrative costs
25,000 NJ Catholic Conference to produce DVD for nationwide use to oppose marriage equality
15,000 NJ Council to support pro-marriage rally
2010 722,150 USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Defense of Marriage
26,000 Family Institute of Connecticut for administrative costs
2012 250,000 Preserve Marriage Washington
250,000 Maryland Marriage Alliance
134,000 Minnesota for Marriage
1,135 Protect Marriage Maine
TOTAL $6,250,785



October 18th, 2012

Whenever a sentence starts with “moments ago” I read the rest with the voice of Edward James Olmos in my head


October 18th, 2012

I cannot tell you how angry I get at the incessant “Hoagie Sales” in the roadway in front of the Knights Kof Kolubus near our house in NJ. When I am driving, it’s all I can do to not want to run down the guys.

I really need to find out the protest rules and maybe work with Garden State Equality to picket them with “Hoagies = Hate” signs and such. It’s a relatively liberal area and I bet most of the local have no idea that the hoagie money is going to efforts to block ME in NJ. And I would ALMOST bet (it’s harder and harder for the members to NOT know what is going on) that most of the volunteers doing the selling have no clue that’s where huge chunks of the money they raise for the National and State structures goes.

I was a long-time member of B’nai B’rith and while they are apologists for Israel, they also fight FOR civil liberties and civil rights in the U.S. and abroad.


October 18th, 2012

Yeah, Steve, me too!

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