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Bishops Neutral On Anti-Gay Rights Initiatives After Opposing Measures Last Year, Archdiocese Declines To Take Stand On Initiatives 166 And 167

Associated Press

Roman Catholic Archbishop Thomas Murphy and two bishops are not taking sides on two anti-gay rights initiatives after opposing two comparable propositions last year.

A four-page paper by the church’s three prelates in Washington state criticizes Initiatives 166 and 167 as “inadequately crafted,” and they have barred signature-gathering for the measures on church grounds, said John McCoy, an archdiocese spokesman.

“Discrimination and violence towards individuals because of sexual orientation are wrong,” said the paper, signed by Murphy of Seattle, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane and Bishop Francis George of Yakima.

At the same time, they did not call the initiatives “morally wrong,” as they did with Initiatives 608 and 610 last year.

“Initiative 166 … is similar to an initiative we opposed last year, but the debate that ensued caused confusion and misunderstanding about our teaching and the reason for our position,” the bishops wrote.

“The catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to state: ‘(Homosexual persons) must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,”’ the bishops said.

They also wrote, “The church does not approve of homosexual genital acts… Schools should not present homosexual behavior as acceptable, nor should they condemn homosexual persons for who they are.”

Initiatives 166 and 167 closely resemble Initiatives 608 and 610, which failed to attract enough signatures to make the ballot last year.

Initiative 166 would ban the extension of anti-discrimination laws to cover homosexuals and prohibit public schools from teaching that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. Initiative 167 would prevent gays and lesbians from adopting children, becoming foster parents or getting child custody in divorce cases.

The new versions are to the Legislature rather than to the people. That gives backers more time - until Dec. 29 - to get the required 181,667 valid signatures of registered voters and sends the measures to the Legislature if that requirement is met.

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