- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Catholic organization Legatus has named former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee and two others as speakers at its upcoming annual conference. They replace three people, including actor Gary Sinise, who withdrew last week, citing controversies surrounding the gathering.

Former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee, family advocate Austin Ruse, and business leader and professor Harry Kraemer will now address the hundreds of Catholic leaders at their annual conference, held Jan. 29-31 in Florida.

Officials of Legatus praised the trio as dynamic and ready to offer important perspectives for Catholics who are interested in the intersection of faith, family and business.

Other Legatus speakers will include New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Al Kresta of Ave Maria Radio; Acton Institute founder Father Robert Sirico and Paul Darrow of the Courage ministry for people with same-sex attractions.

The Legatus conference garnered headlines recently when Mr. Sinise and Fox News Channel chief political correspondent Bret Baier withdrew from it, saying they didn’t realize there were controversies with the conference. MillerCoors Chairman Peter Coors also withdrew from the conference, according to Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization.

Legatus leaders told members the objections involved Mr. Darrow and Courage, the Catholic ministry that encourages faithful Catholics with same-sex attractions to live a celibate life.

Legatus Executive Director John Hunt formally responded to the cancellations, saying that Legatus “embraces all that the Catholic Church teaches — nothing more, nothing less.”

“Church teachings on same-sex attractions are not intended to marginalize the individuals who experience them. On the contrary, the Church wants to reach out to these individuals — as well as all who will enter into dialogue about its teachings — and help them to understand why the Church teaches what it does.”

Mr. Hunt said that it was regrettable that Legatus members “will not have the opportunity to hear about all the good work” Mr. Sinise, Mr. Baier and Mr. Coors are doing.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, he added, “should not feel threatened by our organization, whose mission is to study, live and spread our faith according to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“At its core, this issue is about the freedom of Legatus members — in fact all Catholics, and by extension people of any religion — to have the freedom to exercise their religious beliefs, which includes the ability to gather together and discuss their faith.”

Mr. Huckabee is a popular speaker and possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, while Northwestern University business professor Mr. Kraemer is the former chief executive of Baxter International Inc.

Mr. Ruse is the president of the Center for Family and Human Rights, which is active on issues at the United Nations.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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