NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Several Catholic organizations have withdrawn from Norfolk’s St. Patrick’s Day parade to protest the selection of Gov. Terry McAuliffe as grand marshal.

At least six schools and a church won’t participate in Saturday’s parade, which is organized by Knights of Columbus Council No. 3548. They oppose the governor’s appearance because of his stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, WAVY-TV reported.

McAuliffe, who is Catholic, has vowed to block efforts at limiting abortion rights. He is the first Virginia governor to preside over a same-sex wedding ceremony.

“Governor McAuliffe stands contrary to the Catholic Church in not one but many essential teachings of the Church in the political arena,” Father Dan Beeman, pastor of Holy Trinity Church, wrote in a letter to parishioners obtained by WAVY. “He himself promised to be a ‘brick wall’ against restrictions on abortion, has taken away common sense protections for women in abortion facilities and lowered safety standards, and consistently takes money from pro-abortion lobbying groups.”

Beeman’s letter said the parish will not support or participate in the parade.

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor is a lifelong Catholic who takes his faith seriously.

“He also believes in keeping government out of decisions that should be left to women and their doctors, or to consenting adults who love each other. He is committed to building a new Virginia economy that is open and welcoming to people of all races, genders, creeds and sexual orientation,” Mr. Coy said in a statement to WAVY.

Catholic schools’ participation in the parade is organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division No. 1. Kevin Cassidy, the group’s president, said the group’s intention was to make a statement, and not to penalize the students.

“It was the only way we felt we could make a statement because there was an affront to our principals. It really bothered many of us,” Mr. Cassidy told WAVY.

Dave Nelson, deputy grand knight of the local Knights of Columbus, referred calls to other members who are in charge of parade. Other members didn’t return WAVY’s telephone calls, the station reported.


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