Catholic Church in the US fought establishment of suicide hotline because it would help LGBTQ people - report

  • 30/03/2021
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops - the official assembly of the country's church leaders - quietly lobbied against the Bill. Photo credit: Getty

A powerful US church group reportedly lobbied against the creation of a suicide hotline because some of its funding would be spent on services specific to LGBTQ people.

The hotline, which would offer instant, toll-free access to counsellors - much like New Zealand's 1737 or Lifeline services - was created last year with the passing of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Designation Act. Introduced by a Republican, the Bill had rare unanimous support across the political divide. 

Services already exist, but the Act will introduce a single three-digit number - 988 - for use nationwide from mid-2022.

The legislation also put in place mandatory "cultural competency" for counsellors, Washington DC LGBTQ-focused newspaper Metro Weekly reported, as well as specialised care and more LGBTQ resources on the US Lifeline website. 

It's now emerged the US Conference of Catholic Bishops - the official assembly of the country's church leaders - quietly lobbied against the Bill.

The revelation comes as the Catholic Church in the US aims to bring down other legislation mentioning sexual orientation and gender, the National Catholic Reporter said, including the new Equality Act - which would amend the 1960s-era Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has reportedly been more outspoken about this particular Bill, calling it a "violation of precious rights to life and conscience". 

The Bill has passed in the House, but is yet to be considered by the Senate. A previous attempt at bringing it in passed the House but was ignored by the Senate, and then-President Donald Trump said he'd veto it anyway.

Current President Joe Biden - a Catholic - has expressed support for it in the past. 

"The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender discordance from unjust discrimination," the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement. 

"Although this is a worthy purpose, the Equality Act does not serve it. And instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage and sexuality, the Equality Act discriminates against people of faith precisely because of those beliefs. 

"In the process, the Equality Act codifies the new ideology of 'gender' in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting 'gender' as only a social construct."

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