Anti-Catholic activist James Hormel still hopes to secure post to 97%-Catholic country

AUSTIN, Texas—As President Bill Clinton's controversial nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg waits to learn his fate, Catholic and family organizations continue to call on the Senate to reject him.

The nominee, James Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist and major Democratic Party contributor, is a staunch supporter of homosexual causes and has been accused of anti-Catholicism by such groups as the Catholic Alliance and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. He has also been criticized for his involvement in activist homosexual organizations and for a collection of homosexual literature in a center bearing his name at the San Francisco Public Library.

"Most Catholics I know would not have been disturbed by the fact that he is gay, but he is engaged in a highly activist role in the gay community and has shown contempt for those who do not share his views,” said Maureen Hogan, director of public affairs for the Catholic Alliance. “Any Catholic in their right mind should look at this guy and reject him soundly.’

The government of Luxembourg, a 97%-Catholic country, has approved the nomination.

Hormel's nomination was the only one not confirmed by the Senate by the end of 1997. It passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee and is now on the calendar for the full Senate's vote. However, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has indicated that he has no plans to call for a vote in the near future.

Some of Hormel's opponents, in particular the Family Research Council, say that rumors are floating on Capitol Hill that Clinton plans to make a recess appointment of Hormel while Congress is on Easter recess. Such an appointment would allow him to serve for up to 14 months without congressional confirmation. No action had been taken however, by the time the Register went to press.

The White House has accused a group of Republican senators who have been blocking Hormel's confirmation of an anti-homosexual bias.

"There's only one reason he's being held up and that is the fact that he's gay,” said White House spokesman Barry Toiv.

His opponents, however, say their objections go far beyond Hormel's personal sexual preference.

Hormel, the 64-year-old heir to the Hormel meat-packing company fortune, offended Catholics in 1996 during a San Francisco “gay-pride” parade. Sitting in a broadcast booth as the parade was televised by a local television station, Hormel laughed and joked with the two commentators during an appearance by a group of transvestites who dress in nuns’ habits and refer to themselves as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. (The “drag queens” wear crucifixes and mock various aspects of the Catholic faith.)

"If we saw a prospective candidate laughing at racist or antiSemitic behavior, there would be no question about his nomination,” said Hogan. “It shows a real double standard.’

In a private meeting with Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), the senator asked Hormel to repudiate the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Hormel refused to do so, according to a spokesman from Hutchinson's Capitol office. Hormel told the law-maker that he found the group to be humorous, the spokesman said.

The Catholic League wrote every U.S. senator asking them to reject Hormel's nomination, citing the parade incident and Hormel's refusal to repudiate the group.

"Any person who cannot find it within himself to quickly and decisively break with those who engage in religious bigotry has no legitimate role to play in representing the United States,” said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, in a statement. “Had Hormel objected to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, he would have said so right on the air. At the very least, he would have told an inquiring Sen. Hutchinson that he unequivocally condemns Catholic bashing. But he did neither…. What Kenya.’

In addition to the charges of Catholic bashing, Hormel's critics are also disturbed by what they see as Hormel's activist homosexual agenda.

The divorced father of four who has vocally supported same-sex marriages is a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that promotes homosexual rights and has branded those with differing views as “hate groups.’

In addition, he reportedly gave financial backing to a documentary film called It's Elementary. The film, which was produced by a homosexual activist, is aimed at educators and offers advice and instruction on how to teach young children about homosexuality.

Additionally, opponents have

pointed to the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. The collection of homosexual literature was established with a $500,000 gift from the Spam magnate.

The divorced father of four who has vocally supported same-sex marriages, is a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that promotes homosexual rights and has branded those with differing views as ‘hate groups.’

Included in the Hormel Center are publications of the National Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which advocates the abolition of “age of consent” laws. The collection also contains books featuring descriptions andphotos of explicit deviant sex.

At least one publication contains a cartoon featuring the Virgin Mary that would be considered offensive to any Christian denomination.

Hormel supporters defend the collection, noting that many of the same publications could be found in the Library of Congress. In his own defense, Hormel wrote to the Senate in February stating that he had “no input or control” over the collection.

His explanation did not satisfy critics, however.

"The man's name is on this thing so he is associated with it,” said Steven Schwalm, a senior writer and policy analyst in the cultural studies department of the Family Research Council. “He's trying to wash his hands of this like Pontius Pilate.’

The Washington-based Family Research Council, led by Schwalm's efforts, have been Hormel's most vocal critics.

"His avocation has been the promotion of homosexuality, the demonizing of Christians, and subverting the laws and mores of this country,” said Schwalm.

In an effort to save his nomination, Hormel has promised that he would resign from the boards of homosexual organizations and not let his name be used for fund-raising purposes for homosexual causes. What's more, in a reversal of previous plans, he has said he would leave his longtime “partner,” Timothy Wu, in the United States.

The Luxembourg nomination is Clinton's second try at getting Hormel a diplomatic post. In 1995, the president nominated him for an ambassadorship to Fiji, a Muslim country with strict anti-sodomy laws. That nomination was withdrawn amid criticism.

"If this guy wasn't good enough for a Muslim country, he isn't good enough for a Catholic country,” said Hogan.

Dennis Poust writes from Austin, Texas.