(12-16) 15:32 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- A Catholic advocacy group told a federal appeals court Wednesday that San Francisco supervisors unconstitutionally attacked the church in 2006 when they denounced a Vatican order prohibiting Catholic Charities from placing adoptive children with same-sex couples.
"This is a specific condemnation and criticism of religious beliefs," Robert Muise, lawyer for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told an 11-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Just as the Constitution forbids government endorsement of religion, he said, it also prohibits official expressions of hostility to a religion or its doctrines.
The league and other Catholic groups have sued the city, seeking a court order repealing the nonbinding resolution.
Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria told the judges that the supervisors had a secular purpose - supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians - and were entitled to express disapproval of any group that opposed that goal. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski appeared to agree, although he asked critical questions of both sides.
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