SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Missouri bishop said forcing people of faith to recognize same-sex relationships is a form of discrimination and violates their religious freedoms.
Bishop James Johnston of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Catholic Diocese issued a letter opposing the proposed expansion of Springfield’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which the Springfield City plans to vote on at its Oct. 13 meeting.
The ordinance would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes, which Johnston said would violate religious freedoms and make criminals out of people trying to live their faith, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Johnson’s letter said that “in the name of preventing discrimination against some,” the council would “impose it on others.”
He said his letter is intended to help “Catholics and others of good will in forming their conscience on these matters.” He also said he intends to reach out “with respect and honesty” to people in the gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Religious groups have been the strongest opposition to the ordinance’s expansion, though some have also supported it, most notably Pastor Phil Snider. His speech to the Springfield City Council in August 2012 was captured on video and went viral, garnering more than 2.5 million online views.
A task force was formed later that year that invited church leaders to comment on the ordinance.