Obama's Faith-Based Adviser Urges Challenge to ‘Heteronormative' Fatherhood
Harry Knox, appointed last month to the 25-member President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, has drawn fire for inflammatory comments about the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI.
Knox talked about fatherhood and other issues the council would work on in a May 11 PBS interview, which aired two days before a May 13 letter – signed by nearly two dozen prominent Catholics, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) – was sent to the White House asking Obama to remove Knox from the council.
The letter was also signed by L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com.
“Responsible fatherhood offers us an immense opportunity to speak to a real need in the country,” said Knox, director of the faith and religion program at the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights group, during the PBS interview broadcast on its Religion & Ethics Newsweekly show.
“It’ll be challenging to do that for instance in ways that are not dismissive of the tremendous gifts of single mothers; not to sort of hold a heteronormative view of fatherhood up as the only model,” said Knox.
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is responsible for distributing federal money to religious non-profit and charitable organizations.
“For instance, 25 percent of gay male couples in the country are raising children – their own and other people’s,” Knox, a member of the United Church of Christ and the Interdenominational Conference of Liberation Congregations and Ministries, told PBS.
“So the challenge will be for all of us getting to know what fatherhood means for us, and how to talk about it in a way that is as inclusive as possible and empowering as possible,” he said.
He added that mentoring programs for homosexual fathers should be reviewed by the council.
“One of the things I am suggesting on the council is that they look at mentoring processes that gay dads have developed to help each other be good fathers around the country,” Knox said.
On March 17, two weeks before his appointment to the advisory council, Knox published a statement on the Human Rights Campaign Web site in reaction to the pope’s statement on condoms and AIDS in Africa, saying, “The Pope’s statement that condoms don’t help control the spread of HIV, but rather condoms increase infection rates, is hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
In response to a bishop’s instruction that a lesbian couple in Wyoming could not receive communion at the Catholic Mass, Knox, in an April 6, 2007 statement on the HRC’s Web site wrote: “In this holy Lenten season, it is immoral and insulting to Jesus to use the body and blood of Christ the reconciler as a weapon to silence free speech and demean the love of a committed, legally married couple.”
On April 6, 2009, in an interview with CNSNews.com, Knox stood by his comments from the previous month in the San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter when he said the pope is a discredited leader.
“The Pope needs to start telling the truth about condom use,” Knox said. “We are eager to help him do that. Until he is willing to do that and able, he’s doing a great deal more harm than good – not just in Africa but around the world. It is endangering people’s lives.”
The day the letter from the 22 Catholics was released, Knox told Newsmax he was not anti-Catholic.
"I love the Catholic Church and love my Catholic sisters and brothers very much,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Roman Catholic Church and for all the good that it does. I do think that we have a real disagreement about the role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, both in the role of the church and in the role of public service."
“If Harry Knox truly loved the Catholic Church, the first thing he’d do is formally and publicly apologize to the Holy Father for his anti-Catholic bigotry,” Bozell said.