By Rose French

Catholic bishops withdrew a Minnesota environmental group’s $48,000 grant due to its association with a non-profit organization opposed to the marriage amendment.

The Land Stewardship Project, which supports family farms and immigrant farm workers, has not taken a position on the marriage amendment. But the group is a member of TakeAction Minnesota, which has publicly opposed the measure.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development - a program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – told the Land Stewardship Project the group had to resign its membership from TakeAction Minnesota and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits or it would lose the grant, its largest ever.

Mark Schultz, associate director for the Land Stewardship Project, said they were told the Catholic bishops objected to the organizations’ positions against the marriage amendment. The Catholic Church has been a driving force in the effort to change the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“We needed to stand up... that this wasn’t a case where we were going to knuckle under just for the money,” Schultz said Friday. “We had to say, ‘No, these are actually important organizations that help our members do the things they need to do.’”

The Lewiston, Minn.,-based Land Stewardship Project sent a letter this month to group members, notifying them of the bishops’ plans to withdraw the grant.

Joel Hennessy, a spokesman for the Diocese of Winona, said the diocese and the bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development made the decision to withdraw the grants. He said groups receiving grant money should have “no affiliation or participation in groups that operate contrary to church teachings.”

Hennessy said there was initial concern over the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits but that “it was Take Action Minnesota and their actual activism that was the issue.”

“It is unfortunate that immigrants, minorities and family farmers will suffer because the leadership at LSP has chosen to align itself with Take Action Minnesota, an organization which stands in opposition to Catholic moral teaching,” Peter Martin, director of Office of Life for the diocese, said in a statement.


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