It’s one of National Organization for Marriage’s favorite fact-free canards: if same-sex couples are allowed access to civil marriage, religious-based charities will be forced to close up shop. Preserve Marriage Washington, a local arm of NOM trying to block approval of Referendum 74 and thereby repeal Washington’s freedom to marry law, has included this scurrilous statement in their ads:

Religious groups such as Catholic Charities, in Boston and Washington, D.C., have had to choose between fulfilling their social mission — based on their religious beliefs — or accepting this new definition of marriage. As a result, they had to close their adoption program.

Not true, says Peter Meade, chairman of the board of directors for Catholic Charities of Boston during the period PMW is referencing.

“Opponents of the freedom to marry ignore the truth and distort history when they talk about Catholic Charities of Boston and its decision to shut down its adoption services. I’m shocked and amazed that so many years later, they are making the false claim that Catholic Charities’ decision had anything to do with allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to marry,” he told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

In fact Catholic Charities had willingly placed over a dozen children with adoptive gay couples before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down freedom to marry prohibitions in the law.

But is wasn’t the court that ordered Catholic Charities to shut their doors. It was the Vatican. And it had nothing to do with marriage law.

“In 2005, tragically and out of the blue, the Vatican ordered our diocese to cease using the single criteria of ‘best interest of the children,’” writes Meade. “They ordered us to stop facilitating adoptions to qualified gay and lesbian households.”

“I objected strenuously for two reasons. First and foremost, the Church hierarchy was telling us to violate the best interests of the children who were in our care. It was an arbitrary edict that, to many of us, had nothing to do with what was best for these kids and undermined our moral priority of helping vulnerable children find loving homes.

“Here’s a second piece,” writes Meade. “Catholic Charities had long accepted taxpayer money in a contract with state government to handle the adoptions of these difficult-to-place children, many of whom were older, some who had disciplinary issues, and some who faced chronic medical issues that required constant attention.

“We were proud of our work, but we were also required to follow decades-old anti-discrimination laws. It had nothing to do with marriage equality.

“Here are the facts: When organizations accept taxpayer dollars, they need to obey anti-discrimination laws that exist to make sure everyone is treated equally. If we excluded qualified families simply because they were gay or lesbian, we would violate these laws.”

So it was the Vatican that pulled the plug on Catholic Charities of Boston. And it wasn’t because of the advent of marriage equality, but because the Vatican no longer wanted to abide by the anti-discrimination requirements long-attached to the state subsidies that Catholic Charities was receiving.

The board of directors of Catholic Charities of Boston “voted unanimously not to exclude gay and lesbian couples. It viewed the Vatican edict as wrong for children and in violation of state law.” But to no avail. Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley enforced the edict, and in response Mr. Meade and numerous directors resigned in protest.

As they say on The X-Files, the truth is out there. But don’t count on NOM or Preserve Marriage Washington to reveal it. They serve the Vatican, not the truth.