(Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
The Faith & Freedom Coalition, a Georgia-based Christian nonprofit organization founded by political activist Ralph Reed, recently issued a petition urging an end to what it claims to be federal funding for the Washington National Cathedral, which in January 2013 announced it would begin performing same-sex marriages.
"Pro-family and Pro-freedom Americans cannot sit idly by," reads the FFC petition.
The petition argues that because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which at federal level declares marriage to be between one man and one woman, the National Cathedral should not accept federal funds, as it supports same-sex marriage.
"We believe the definition of 'marriage' to be the union of one man to one woman. If the National Cathedral wants to continue to receive taxpayer funding from Congress, they should respect Congressional action like the Defense of Marriage Act," the petition continues.
"… taxpayers are being asked to subsidize gay marriage ceremonies for a church that can readily access millions of their own funds," the petition adds.
The petition goes on to demand the suspension of future federal funding of the cathedral until it ceases performing same-sex marriages.
The Washington National Cathedral states that it is not funded by the government or any national church. It does not regularly receive federal funds from the government. It previously received a grant which came to the cathedral via the National Trust and required matching private funds.
Reed's organization specifically references the May 2011 grant of $700,000 awarded to the cathedral on behalf of the National Trust.
Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, told CP that the issue with the National Cathedral's reception of federal funding is two-fold.
"You have the possibly the richest denomination in America and American traditional Christendom asking for federal funds when America's families are pinching pennies in this time of economic downturn," Marx told CP.
Additionally, the coalition finds fault that "congressional taxpayer dollars are being used to fund a church that is practicing homosexual marriage certification, which stands in contrast to bipartisan congressional action in the form of the Defense of Marriage Act."
In response to the petition, Richard Weinberg, director of Communications at the National Cathedral, told The Christian Post that the religious institution has no intention of changing its policy regarding same-sex marriage.
"We have no intention of changing the National Cathedral's policy regarding same-sex marriage. We don't plan to respond in any way to the petition, except not to be deterred, and to continue living out our mission as a spiritual home for the nation and grounded in our role as an Episcopal church," Weinberg told CP.
In a separate interview with The Huffington Post, Weinberg argued that any federal funding the cathedral receives goes toward the actual building's upkeep, as it is more than 100 years old and receives several thousands of visitors per year.
"Raising federal funds for other projects would not be consistent with the Constitution as we understand it,' Weinberg told The Huffington Post.
The petition ultimately seeks an "immediate suspension of any current or future federal funds to this institution, until such time that it ceases the practice of homosexual 'marriage' certification."
In January 2013, the Washington National Cathedral, which is one of the largest churches in the world and a part of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Washington, D.C., announced that it would be using the recently-approved Episcopal rite of blessing same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in the District of Columbia.
The cathedral, which boasts an attendance of roughly 1,000 regular congregants, holds great national significance as it is the country's traditional landmark for religious services involving U.S. presidents and national memorial services for country-wide tragedy.