Illinois Catholic Group Won't Oppose ERA | WGLT

Illinois Catholic Group Won't Oppose ERA

Sep 20, 2017

The Catholic Church in Illinois played a large role in defeating passage of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in the 1980s. However, the church's lobbying group in the state doesn't plan to take a stand this time around.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said his organization has other priorities.

"We had some real difficult budget issues to navigate that people are aware of with Catholic Charities funding. We also were involved in a very high-profile opposition to using tax dollars to fund abortions, so you've got to look at what you can do and what's reasonable," Gilligan told GLT.

Gilligan said the Catholic Conference is also focused on getting tax credits and student scholarships for families who send their children to parochial schools.

A national movement to defeat the ERA in the 1970s and 80s was led by Illinois constitutional attorney and conservative Catholic activist Phyllis Schlafly from Alton. Schlafly died in 2016.

Gilligan said he doesn't expect a repeat of that kind of mobilization against the ERA.

"We've not taken a position in the last two sessions when this issue was introduced, and I don't anticipate taking a position next year," Gilligan said.

However, Gilligan said there is always the possibility that the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops could take a stand, and that the conference speaks for bishops and Catholic organizations nationwide.

Women have been mobilizing throughout the state to revive the ERA. Thirty-eight states must ratify a change to the Constitution. The ERA fell three states short. Illinois was one of the final three states to defeat the amendment. Currently, 36 state legislatures have approved the measure.

Sally Pancrazio, who is helping to lead the current ERA fight in the state, said support is more widespread this time.

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