The group also asked him to resign his membership in the organization.
The Hibernians’ chaplain, the Rev. Msgr. Steven R. Camp, wrote to Gaughran that the group had voted unanimously to rescind an invitation to the Democrat to the annual Grand Marshal dinner dance on Friday and then the parade itself.
“The membership is dismayed that a member of their order could vote for such a law that in fact allows for infanticide. This law violates all the principles the AOH has ascribed to since its founding, adherence to our Roman Catholic faith, and the security of the Irish race.”
Gaughran, who took office in January, pushed back in a letter to Camp, who is also pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Huntington.
“I was surprised to read your letter and learn that the John F. Kennedy Division now–as a condition of membership–requires public officials to perform their duties in conformance with the specific religious views held by its membership. Respectfully, I find this troubling and contrary to the principle that our elected officials must represent all their constituents, not just those with whom they share their religious beliefs.
“The Division’s namesake, President John F. Kennedy, in a speech before mostly Baptist ministers, famously stated that he believed ‘in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,’ and an America where ‘no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.’ As our nation’s first Irish Catholic President, Kennedy faced religious bigotry as a candidate and in office, but neither deterred him.”
The senator noted that he also voted for the Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations in child sex-abuse cases, which was opposed by the Catholic Church.
He also questioned whether the Hibernians would send similar letters to other public officials, who differ from the Pope’s teachings on the death penalty, the threat of climate change or President Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
Text of Hibernians’ letter
Dear Senator Gaughran,
I am writing to you at the request of the Board and Membership of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, JFK Division 4 — Huntington. I serve as their Chaplain and I am also the Pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Huntington. At our recent meeting, a resolution was put forth and passed unanimously by the membership, to rescind your invitation to the Annual Grand Marshal Dinner Dance on March 8th as well as to march in the Annual Parade, with the Hibernians, on March 10th. You should know that the discussion that was held was heated, and expressions of great dismay was spoken of your affirmative vote for the Women Health and Reproduction Act.
The membership is dismayed that a member of their order could vote for such a law that in fact, allows for infanticide. This law violates all the principles the AOH has ascribed to since its founding, adherence to the principles of our Roman Catholic faith, and the security of the Irish race.
Accordingly, the membership request that you resign your membership from the Hibernians and make no further mention in your biography and campaign material about past or current membership. If you choose to march in the parade on March 10th. you may not do so as a member in good standing which includes not wearing the customary tails and sash, nor are you to march with the Hibernians. Out of respect, it is also requested you not sit with the Hibemians at the 10:00am Mass on March 10th at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. If attending, your presence should be passive and non-participating.
We find this an unfortunate incident that has come upon our membership, however the principles of the Hibernians must be held as the standard by which we now write to you.
Text of Gaughran’s Letter
Dear Rev. Msgr. Camp,
I am writing in response to your letter on behalf of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, JFK Division 4 — Huntington. I was surprised to read your letter and learn that the John F. Kennedy Division now — as a condition of membership — requires public officials to perform their duties solely in conformance with the specific religious views held by its membership. Respectfully, I find this troubling and contrary to the principle that our elected officials must represent all their constituents, not just those with whom they share their religious beliefs. The Division’s namesake, President John F. Kennedy, in a speech before mostly Baptist ministers, famously stated that he believed “in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” and an America where “no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.” As our nation’s first Irish Catholic President, Kennedy faced religious bigotry as a candidate and in office, but neither deterred him.
I believe — in many ways — President Kennedy did more to advance Americans of Irish descent, and to promote and preserve religious freedom, than any other public figure in my lifetime. When he took his oath of office, he pledged his fidelity only to the Constitution of the United States.
As State Senator, I took a similar oath, to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York. I did not pledge to abide by the dictates of any party, religion or organization; I pledged to obey the laws of the land, and to carry out my duties based on what I believe is in the best interests of all the people I represent. Regarding the Reproductive Health Act, I made clear this year — as I have in years past — that I would support this legislation and had many conversations with voters about it. While discussions with voters who disagreed could become impassioned, our exchanges were always respectful. I continue to hold the utmost respect for those who believe differently on this issue, including the leadership of the Catholic Church and the membership of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, JFK
C Division 4. But despite the stated position — of both organizations — to overturn the legal principles of Roe v. Wade, I maintain my belief that a woman should have the right to make her own personal reproductive health care decisions.
Regarding my position within the Division, please be advised that I have not renewed my membership, nor do I consider myself an active member. Please also be assured that I do not intend to challenge the Division’s decision, as I believe the issue to be moot for reasons stated above. To be honest, I do not see how any elected public official could faithfully uphold their fidelity to their Constitutional Oath while participating in an organization that requires specific votes based explicitly upon religious views or litmus tests.
In my case, it seems such selective requirements were arbitrarily applied. In recent years, other members of Ancient Order of Hibernians, some of whom while serving in public office, have spoken or voted in direct contradiction to the teachings and formal positions of the Catholic Church. Some differed on the matter of the death penalty, the threat of Climate Change, or President Trump’s policy of separating young children from their parents at the border. While my views on these issues — and many others — align with those of Pope Francis, some members have vocally opposed the positions of His Holiness. Respectfully, I must ask: will these members receive a letter similar to the one I did?
I admit, Monsignor, that I am fallible, but so too are we all. While the leadership of the
Archdiocese fervently fought against and protested passage of the Child Victims Act, a bill to provide justice for individuals molested as minors, and a path to legal recourse against their abusers, my personal beliefs demanded that I vote in the affirmative. On this issue, and that of the Reproductive Health Act, I have no regrets.
We may disagree on these issues, but please understand that I do truly respect and appreciate your positions. Certainly, in my official capacity, I have an obligation to consider all points of view, including those of the Catholic Church and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. While I was saddened that no effort was made to discuss this matter with me prior to the Division’s decision, I hope that this may serve as an impetus to open a dialogue where we can work together for the betterment of all our neighbors.