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Friday, October 19, 2012

Knights of Columbus Donate Millions to Anti-Gay Marriage Effort, Report Says

The Knights of Columbus are best known as a Roman Catholic fraternal and service organization that sells insurance policies to finance its charitable activities. The group provides coats for underprivileged children, prosthetics for Haitian earthquake victims and scholarships to Catholic colleges for the children of its members.

But less well known is that the Knights are also donating significant amounts of money and volunteer time to fight the legalization of gay marriage.  Between 2005 and 2012, the Knights channeled $6.5 million to campaigns against same-sex marriage â€" most of it to political campaigns in 12 states to pass ballot measures that would ban marriage for gays and lesbians - according to a report released on Thursday by Equally Blessed, a coalition of groups of Catholics who support gay marriage.

The report, based on public Internal Revenue Service forms and campaign filings, said that the $6.5 million was probably an undercount because the Kn ights have not yet filed their I.R.S. forms for 2011 or 2012.

The report found that $1.9 million of the total went to the National Organization for Marriage, a group that has coordinated statewide campaigns to pass anti-gay marriage initiatives.  Gay marriage initiatives are on the ballot in four states in November: Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.

Patrick Korten, a spokesman for the Knights, said about financing the campaigns: “Of course, we get involved in all of them. We supply volunteers, we give money. We are one with the church on the subject of preserving traditional man-and-woman marriage. And that should come as a great surprise to no one.”

However, it has apparently come as a surprise to some Knights. Edmund Burg, who joined the Knights of Columbus 65 years ago when he returned from serving in the Pacific theater, said he was close to following the example of a friend and resigning his membership.

Mr. Burg lives in Minnesota, where the Knights and the Catholic bishops have backed an amendment to change the state Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  Mr. Burg said he learned about the Knights' involvement only after reading news media reports revealing that the Knights had helped to pay to send a DVD opposing gay marriage to about 400,000 Catholic households, including his.

“It's really shameful that an organization like the Knights of Columbus that does a lot of good work, goes and smears their record by supporting something like anti-gay marriage,” said Mr. Burg, a Catholic who said he supports his local parish but is disillusioned with the bishops.

In a two-sentence statement released on Thursday, the Knights of Columbus said that they support “Catholic Social Teaching and the bishops of the Catholic Church, and some resources have long been dedicated to promoting that teaching on moral issues.”

The statemen t did not contest the $6.2 million figure, but pointed out that in the same time period the group had also donated more than $1 billion to charitable causes.