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For The Catholic Restoration

Empower DC Refuses to Return $50,000 to Catholics, Denies Allegations

On Thursday, November 1, the Reform CCHD Now (RCN) coalition issued a demand that the Washington DC community organizing group Empower DC return its $50,000 grant to the Catholic Church.  The reason?  According to RCN’s profile of Empower DC, Empower DC promoted and distributed a document titled, “Hey Grrrl!” that instructs young girls on how to get away with prostitution, car sex, truancy, trespassing, and even illegal drug possession.

Shortly after RCN issued its demand that Empower DC return the funds to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Washington Times picked up the story.  According to the Times article, Hey Grrrl! was removed from the Empower DC website because Empower DC “had not developed a policy about what is cross-posted.”  In fact, Parisa Norouzi, Empower DC’s executive director claims that “the CCHD itself has not asked for the money back because Empower D.C. has not violated the terms of the grant for general support.”

If it is true that Empower DC has not violated the terms of the grant as Parisa Norouzi claims, then RCN owes Empower DC a sincere, hearty and prompt apology.  However, if it is NOT true, and Empower DC IS in violation of CCHD grant guidelines then they must return the funds to the Catholic Church as stipulated in the grant agreement.

So, let’s look at the facts of the case.  Empower DC claims that it only posted a document that belonged to another organization, and that the document, not belonging to them, was posted in error and cannot be attributed to Empower DC.  Ergo, Empower DC is not in violation of CCHD guidelines.

But this was not the only violating item found on Empower DC.  According to RCN’s report, Empower DC created a video that promoted “LGBTQ rights.”  The following video about the Greater DC People’s Assembly (of which Empower DC is a member … more on that later) was created by Empower DC.  At 53 seconds, the video indicates support for “LGBTQ Rights.”

Furthermore, Empower DC wrote a blog post dated April 11, 2011, titled “A Better Budget is Possible.“  The blog post specifically opposes a budget deal in DC because it “reinstates a ban on abortion funding.”  The blog post is still there, but in case it disappears for some reason, here’s a screen-capture.

You will notice the arrow at the top, indicating that the article was written by Liane Scott.    According to Linkedin, Liane Scott is Empower DC’s “Coordinator,” which is to say that the article was written by Empower DC, therefore expressing the mind of the organization.  In this case, that translates as support for abortion.

But then there’s Empower DC’s membership in the Greater DC People’s Assembly.  Not only is Empower DC a member of the People’s Assembly, but it is called an “Anchor Organization.

The Greater DC People’s Assembly “2010 People’s Agenda,” specifically states the following:

“Therefore we see our priorities as … abolish all laws which criminalize LGBTQ people and our survival strategies (such as sex work) and enact policies to protect LGBTQ people … supporting and legally protect trans people’s right to self-determine our gender identities and expressions free from coercion”

Here’s the problem, Ms. Norouzi is claiming that Empower DC has not broken any of the CCHD grant guidelines, but as you can see above, it has, on its own, stated a support for government funding for abortion and “LGBTQ rights.”  This alone is enough to disqualify Empower DC from CCHD funding.  But Empower DC broke another CCHD guideline, which states:

“CCHD will not fund groups that are members of coalitions which have as their organizational purpose or coalition agenda, positions or actions that contradict fundamental Catholic moral and social teaching.”

As we just illustrated, Empower DC is an “Anchor Organization” of the Greater DC People’s Assembly, which itself stated as an “organizational purpose” and “coalition agenda,” the decriminalization of sex work and legal protection for the open practice of homosexuality.  As these are “positions … that contradict fundamental Catholic moral” teaching, Empower DC is twice guilty of violating the grant agreement, and therefore most certainly owes $50,000 back to the Catholic Church.


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