The National Catholic Reporter slams is deeply unhappy over Jon L Stryker's grant to the American Civil Liberties Union

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IN a piece published on Friday – headed “ACLU Gets $15 Million LGBT Grant from Billionaire Foe of Christian Morals and Religious Freedom” – the National Catholic Register expressed horror that the money given to the ACLU by Stryker, above, will be used  to ‘limit religious freedom and undermine Christian sexual morals.’

Beneath the headline the NCR said the grant:

Includes both funding for efforts to limit religious freedom and funding for Christian groups – including Catholic dissenters – that want to change their churches’ teachings on marriage and sexual morality.

The grant, according Forbes, is the biggest sum ever received by ACLU in its 101-year history, and will be used to create the Jon L  Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project.

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Randjelović, above, is Stryer’s husband and is a “celebrated architect, designer, and photographer.”

Forbes estimated that Stryker’s net worth is an estimated $4.4 billion. He is an heir to the Stryker Corporation medical devices manufacturer, and has given reportedly gifted $585 million to causes ranging from great apes conservation to LGBT advocacy, often through his philanthropic organization the Arcus Foundation.

The NCR disapprovingly points out that Stryker’s donations:

Include millions of dollars in grants specifically earmarked to promote limits on religious freedom.

In 2016, for instance, Stryker’s Arcus Foundation gave the ACLU a $150,000 grant to implement ‘a national coordinated media and public-education campaign to beat back religious exemptions at federal and state levels.’

Stryker also funds religious groups that:

Undermine Christian sexual morals. Arcus grants have gone to Catholics for Choice, which rejects Catholic teaching on abortion, and the Equally Blessed Coalition of groups like Dignity USA, Call to Action and New Ways Ministry, which engage in LGBT advocacy and reject Catholic teaching on sexual morality and the sacraments.

Some of the groups back ordination of women and think same-sex unions should be recognized as sacramental.

The Arcus Foundation funded a 2012 Equally Blessed report criticising the Knights of Columbus’ support for marriage as a union of one man and one woman, and a 2014 grant sought:

To support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church … Another grant sought to promote advocacy ‘for LGBTQ acceptance and for an end to harmful religious exemption policies within Catholic communities.’

The ACLU said Stryker and Randjelovic’s $15 million gift could help it further effect change in the United States.

James Esseks, Director of the newly renamed LGBTQ & HIV Project, said:

We will use Jon and Slo’s generosity to change the law and create a culture where discrimination against LGBTQ people is unfathomable.

They understand that as long as LGBTQ people can be used as fodder for political attacks …t hat our entire community will be vulnerable to discrimination.

We need the resources to fight on all fronts – in the states and at the federal level, in courts and in communities, and that’s what Jon and Slo’s generosity will allow us to do.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D Romero said that the two men have been:

Pioneering supporters of our LGBTQ rights work for years. Alongside scores of funders and organizations as well as millions of activists and everyday LGBTQ people, Jon and Slo helped build the infrastructure that made marriage equality the law of the land, but they also understood that the fight for LGBTQ equality did not end there.

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According to Romero, the two donors attended US Supreme Court hearings to support Aimee Stephens, above, a transgender employee of a funeral home who successfully challenged the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Federal officials backed Stephens’ claims to have been wrongly fired by the funeral home for Stephens’ plans to dress as a woman. She died last year aged 59.

Based on her court case, in a historic 2020 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex.

Romero added:

Jon and Slo know that the battles for trans justice are more critical than ever. The project will ensure that our fight for LGBTQ justice and equality will continue in the years ahead with energy and determination, as well as the resources needed to ensure success.

The NCR also reported that, in recent years, the Arcus Foundation has increased spending on transgender advocacy and pro-transgender legal and cultural change, among other causes.

Arcus Foundation grantees have been linked to doctrinal and cultural change within the Episcopalian Church, the United Methodist Church and evangelical Protestantism … Non-Christian religions are also a focus, with grants to Muslims for Progressive Values to challenge Muslims who seek religious exemptions and to cultivate LGBT activists among imams and other Muslims.

The Arcus Foundation‘s website lists a 2014 grant of $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Foundation supporting:

Communications strategies to convince conservative Americans that religious exemptions are ‘un-American.’

A two-year Arcus grant to the ACLU in 2013 gave $600,000 to support the ACLU’s Campaign to End the Use of Religion to Discriminate.

Arcus Foundation tax forms describe this as a “multi-pronged” effort to combat:

The growing trend of institutions and individuals claiming exemptions from anti-discrimination laws because of religious objections.

Stryker’s foundation is also a backer of the Proteus Fund’s Rights, Faith and Democracy Collaborative. The collaborative brings together:

Wealthy activists who aim to restrict legal protections for religious freedom, in order to advance its vision of reproductive health and LGBT causes.

Previously the foundation helped back the Proteus Fund’s Civil Marriage Collaborative, which worked to recognise same-sex unions as marriages. It closed in 2015 after spending more than $153 million over 11 years on various US groups, projects and campaigns.

Stryker’s foundation says:

Our board of directors and staff are a diverse group, reflecting the diversity inherent in the world our work is shaping. Approximately half of our staff identify as people of color and half as LGBTQ.

Based in New York, US and Cambridge, UK, we work globally to support our partners in their pursuit of lasting change. Our mission is driven by the vision of our founder, and by our shared commitment to the global human rights and conservation movements.

Together, we learn from each other and take bold risks on groundbreaking ideas that drive progress toward a future of respect and dignity for all.

Little wonder, then, that the NCR is so pissed off. Global human rights that include the betterment of lives of LGBT communities is anathema to the Roman Catholic Church.

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