Catholic Church In Illinois Closes Adoptions Centers To Avoid Anti-Discrimination Laws

Catholic bishops in Illinois have followed their colleagues in other states and shutdown adoption centers rather than comply with anti-discrimination laws requiring equal treatment for gay couples. Despite my support for gay rights and same-sex marriage, I have previously written that anti-discrimination laws are threatening the free exercise of religion. There is a possible distinction between areas like tax exempt status as opposed to contracting with the state. While I strongly disagree with this tenet of Catholic faith, I do not believe that religious organizations should be forced to abandon such principles under anti-discrimination laws as a general matter. Yet, it becomes a more difficult argument in the context of a state contract where the church has decided to compete for government contracts.

Catholic charities have served for more than 40 years as a major avenue for the adoption of neglected children. The loss of these centers will have a profound impact on adoption rates for children who are often difficult to place in homes.

The adoption controversy is made more difficult by the fact that the Church’s activities are permitted or contracted with the state. The receipt of a state contract comes with the obligation to comply with standard anti-discrimination laws. In New York, religious organizations were given a special exemption from such laws. However, “The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” contains no such exemption. A month ago, the Church abandoned its legal efforts to block the application of the laws to Catholic Charities and its adoption work.

There is a strong argument to be made that if the Church wants to receive public funding, it is wrong to force gay and lesbian citizens — as well as civil libertarians — to support a discriminatory organization. The Church should have every right to discriminate on the basis for faith in its internal church affairs. However, when asking the public for funds, it is asking for funds from all groups and all citizens. At issue is a reported $30 million in contracts — no small amount of public funding.

What makes the adoption issue a closer question is that it is impossible to perform adoption work without state approval. Even if the state did not give any money, there would remain a claim that the contract or license for adoption would bring an obligation for non-discrimination. I have long held the view that we took the wrong path in dealing with non-for-profit organizations, particularly in such cases as Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983). We need to re-examine how anti-discrimination laws are encroaching upon religious organizations to give free exercise more breathing space in our society — a position I discussed in a book with other authors. Mere state licensing comes closer to the tax exemption date for religiously discriminatory organization. Here the Church was received significant public funding.

As I mentioned, the adoption controversy makes this a much more difficult question due to the existence of a state contract and funding. Moreover, I have long taken a dim view of faith-based programs that entangle church and state. The Obama Administration has expanded on the Bush Administration’s faith-based programs. While the rulings in Illinois can be viewed as reaffirming separation of church and state, it is worth noting that many churches can continue to receive such contracts due to their non-discriminatory faith structure. There is a trend in favor of lowering the wall of separation in our society. I am more concerned about the denial of tax exempt status than I am the denial of state contracts. The former is virtually essential for organizations to flourish while the latter is a voluntary decision to engage state offices — and state policies.

There is always tension in serving seeking to do the work of God under the auspices of the state. Perhaps this shows the wisdom in the statement that “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” For critics, the church “tripped the wire” by asking for millions in public funds — a Faustian bargain if they wanted to use public funds while refusing to comply with public contracting laws. Presumably, non-religious organizations can perform this work and seek the $30 million of funding. It does however, spell the end to a long-standing church-based system for adoptions. The question is where to draw the line. There is a wide array of Church-based hospitals, schools, day care centers, and other facilities which often receive state or federal funding. If these organization are exempt, what about secular organizations with discriminatory tenets? Should religious discrimination be allowed while denying non-religious discrimination?

What do you think?

Source: NYT

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52 thoughts on “Catholic Church In Illinois Closes Adoptions Centers To Avoid Anti-Discrimination Laws

  1. I wonder if the “closing” of these has anything to do with reduced and or eliminated State/Federal funding’s…..They are still running other agency’s…Just not getting the huge ADOPTION subsidies…

  2. JT – you are wrong, the exercise of religion is not infringed by the state in the manner. The church is free to promote its own bigotry in any way it chooses to pay for. What is lost is the public money to fund their bigotry. That rule can be applied to any organization, religious or non.

  3. I believe people have the right to believe in any old invisible being they want in any way they want so long as they don’t impose their pagan bigotry and hate on others.

    Sorry, Mr. Turley, there is no “closer question”. If a religion wants to engage in activity outside its doors it doesn’t get to have its own set of rules under any circumstances. And btw: even inside its doors religion – in American at least – doesn’t get a blank check for what it does. You don’t get to kill people, as an example, inside a church, and get a free pass.

    Nobody told the church to go into the adoption business and definitely nobody asked the kids if they want to grow up having to get brainwashed with mumbo jumbo every Sunday. Selecting who has the right to adopt – today its Gays, tomorrow it Jews, Protestants, and Atheists – is bigotry in the propagation/promotion of their religion.

    This is an easy one.

  4. The money issue is one factor, but “What makes the adoption issue a closer question is that it is impossible to perform adoption work without state approval.”
    I’d like to see comments that reflect on this angle.

    For example, the issue of polygamy is one where church and state collide and no money is involved. What then? Or gay marriage for that matter. Are these cases similar or different?

    Certainly a complicating factor for adoption is that a minor is involved.
    Foster care is an even harder case.

  5. Churches, like newspapers, should be independent of the state. The reason for Jefferson’s Wall is as much to stop the government from intruding into church beliefs as it is to stop the church’s beliefs from intruding into the government.

    The church here is experiencing exactly what non-church goers experience every day with faith-based initiatives. As Jefferson said, “I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it… Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and
    no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.” (Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808).

    Jefferson also reminded us that”History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” (Thomas
    Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1813).

  6. I don’t see why there should be any controversy. The state enacting a completely reasonable secular law requiring those accepting state funds for adoption not particpate in discrimination in the adoption process. The church demanded the right to accept tax-based funds and continue their discrimination of not placing children with gays purely on the grounds of their being gay. They can discriminate in their placement all they wish as long as they use private funds and they are permitted to continue their discriminatory hiring practices. But beyond that it’s pretty cut and dried. They are required to act in the same manner as secular agencies and organizations receiving state funds. If they cannot or will not obey the laws of the state, it’s their choice to close the office. This is how America is supposed to work.

    If you want your children to attend a church-based/religious school (as mine did) or home school, neither the individual family nor the school should receive any tax dollars. That is a private decision and must be funded entirely with private dollars. Tax dollars should be used exclusively to fund “public education”, that is the education of the general, secular public. The same should be true with alcohol/drug treatment programs, etal. If there is religious preaching as part of the cirriculum, there should be no tax dollars funding it. The Office of Faith-based Initiatives should be eliminated.

  7. Of course a church must abide by anti discrimination laws! I don’t care if its inside or outside the church. What kind of precedent are you setting by saying otherwise? If the Catholic Church is allowed to discriminate against homosexual couples because its dogma says so, whats to stop Mosques from stoning people because its dogma says so? If you make the claim one faith gets to ignore laws because of its belief then all faiths get to ignore laws according to their beliefs.

  8. The Catholic Church is playing hardball with the State of Illinois. They thought that if they shut down their expensive adoption centers that the State would cease to exist. Their gamble did not pay off for them. The issue is a simple one for me. If you want state or Federal money, you have to abide by the rules every other organization has to follow.

  9. Adoption is a legal action under state law requiring the oversight of the courts. Once the right to inherit was established in the majority of the states during the 70’s, the adopted child’s legal standing was secured.

    Churches may provide a marriage ceremony but they can not provide the legal licensing that is the state’s prerogative. Likewise, they may provide a baptism or christening ceremony but should have no roll in the legal process of placing the child.

    Quite frankly, whatever the excuse being offered, I’m glad churches are getting out of the adoption process.

  10. what about people who pay taxes who are against gay adoption?

    Laws like this just pit one group against another. Arent there other places gays can go to adopt children?

    On a separate issue, why do we need to get a marriage license? What are we, dogs? We need permission to get married? What kind of crap is that?

  11. The primary purpose of a marriage license is multiple. First, it is for record keeping. Second, it is an official record for the purpose of establishing property rights, inheritance and identifying kinship for legal purposes.

  12. The Catholic Church seems to be long on talking about G-d and what he said but when it comes to putting it into action. they are about protecting themselves and judging. (Is it not more important to get these chilkdren into good homes then to let there judgements against homosexuals stand in the way?, If you are against abortion, and some forms of birth control, is it not better to have more people with their hearts and homes open for the children that the Catholic Church insists be born? And of course the penultimate question, if homosexuality is so abhorrent then why play chess with the pedophile priests? Is homosexuality truly worse then taking away the future of a child through abuse? Somehow I think Jesus would be appalled at the Catholic Church (and other religions) as they wag their tongues and fingers but act in ways antithetical to the techings of

  13. What is Jefferson’s wall?
    “The reason for Jefferson’s Wall is as much to stop the government from intruding into church beliefs as it is to stop the church’s beliefs from intruding into the government. “

  14. rcampbel you say
    “The state enacting a completely reasonable secular law requiring those accepting state funds”
    Forget the funds part. Assume there are no state monies involved. Then what?

  15. carol re: “The Catholic Church seems to be long on talking about G-d and what he said but when it comes to putting it into action. they are about protecting themselves and judging.”

    Well, this is a legal blog not a religious one…. so thinking about what the church should be doing is a secondary thing, in general.

  16. Martin

    Is this a trick question? Religious organizations are already exempted, wrongly in my view, from certain kinds of discrminatory practices, particularly in hiring policies. Religious schools can require prayers as part of the school day while prayers are prohibited in tax financed public schools. One might then assume (as it seems Catholic Services did in Illinois) this is the case because of their being a private religious organization and because of their use of private versus public funding for their church and non-church activities. The state could quite rightly legislate that no organization may discriminate based on sexual orientation, but an exemption already exists for hiring and that exemption would likely be interpretted to include exemption in adoption criteria when using only private funding. The state’s enforcement hammer relates to dispensing tax dollars or not based on compliance with the state’s anti-discrimination law.

  17. Live free or die but dont leave your carcass in my yard. The Catholic Church could start adopting kids out to unwed Priests and I would shudder. In fact, when they get that house in order they can have some soap box to bitch about gays. Thomas Jefferson is quoted in a comment above and this rings true. It is a mistake to give public funding to religious institutions for something like adoption when their primary goal is religion. Next they wont take in a child with Muslim parent(s) and adopt him out to a “good” Catholic family.

  18. The simple question is: “What is better? A child with a loving adult to care for them or a child raised in foster care or an orphanage?”

  19. “The primary purpose of a marriage license is multiple. First, it is for record keeping. Second, it is an official record for the purpose of establishing property rights, inheritance and identifying kinship for legal purposes.”

    why is a government record necessary? Especially when you have the genealogy websites.
    A private contract will establish property rights and inheritance.

    If marriage were a private act between 2 consenting adults, gay marriage would not even be an issue. The government has no business in most of the functions it now provides. In most cases it just complicates matters.

  20. Bron, I told you why. If you don’t like it, take it up with your state legislators.

    And BTW, you mention genealogy data. My wife was an expert genealogist. It was her hobby. A substantial chunk of our hard drive memory is devoted to historical and genealogical data going back centuries. That means I am familiar with what goes into such research. Where do you think most of that information comes from? You got it–birth certificates, death certificates, census data and……..wait for it…….marriage records.

  21. The real question is whether the state should give the Catholic adoption agencies a license to commit bigotry by the agencies’ refusing to place children with loving gay couples. Assuming the church actually has a right to promote bigotry—and I understand that these days, it’s a central tenet—the state should play no part in the funding of that, and I’m not even sure the state should license the agencies to place kids if they’re going to be bigoted about it. I strongly suspect that unless one has been consistently discriminated against, as many religious followers have done with gays, it’s difficult if not impossible to understand the feelings that this sort of bigotry engenders in gay people. It is—how shall I say this?—unChristian!

  22. OS:

    Which were typically kept by the church.

    By the way I imagine you have heard of the Doomsday Book, what exactly is it?

  23. Bron, the whole idea is to keep the Church out of state business. How about those who do not want to get married in a church? We didn’t and were married by a Justice of the Peace, who just happens have been one of Al Gore’s family members–an uncle if memory serves correctly. It seemed to work out just fine without the help of a preacher. We were married 55 years until she passed away last September. As far as I know, there is no church record of our marriage.

    Yes, I am familiar with what you call the “Doomsday Book.” The correct spelling of the name is the “Domesday Book.” You can Google it, and it has a Wikipedia page. Somewhere in my wife’s files is either a copy or a link to the online version–I have not bothered to try and find it as of yet. Reading eleventh century English is not something I do very well.

  24. OS:

    I am not for Church and state being one, I was just saying that Churchs kept many documents before there was effective government for that type of thing. It wouldnt be hard to have a website or 50 websites dedicated to record keeping of personal family histories.

    As far as religion is concerned, whatever floats your boat. Or as Jefferson said “The life and essence of religion consist in the internal persuasion or belief of the mind.”

  25. JT – Church is the last place to allow intolerance and discrimination.

    Our society should not permit intolerance in any form. Not in the home, not in the school, not especially in a place of worship.

    The Catholic teachings in many cases are wonderful. The Catholic theology is wonderfully well-grounded. Unfortunately, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

    Sadly, the second-class status of women in the Catholic church is another example.

    As a society we should not encourage nor tolerate discrimination. Would it be o.k. if black or mixed couple were not allowed to adopt? I would hope not.

    Another generation may be needed before tolerance catches up in the Church. But considering how fast the question of gay rights and marriage has moved in this decade maybe only a few years before the Church reopens the adoption services.

  26. Bron, one of the problems with personal web sites is that many of them are wrong. One of the things my wife ran into was that one of her family members was treated as a non-person by the rest of the family because of a scandal. For one thing, she divorced at a time when that was unthinkable. As a result, you cannot find her on any of the histories of the family, with the sole exception of my wife’s pages. And that would not have come to pass had it not been for public records, including the marriage certificate and the divorce papers.

    I know personally of one family member who threw a screaming fit, literally, when she found out a previous marriage and divorce of her mother was going to be published in a family history. I got that story from my cousin who authored the book–he was really ticked off at the number of attempts at historical revisionism he ran into while doing his research.

    The state has no interest one way or the other in personal agendas, and that is the way it should be. Records should be kept meticulously and preserved in perpetuity. Individuals and individual families cannot be trusted. I know that for a fact.

  27. The Tulsa diocese has taken the very reasonable stance of not accepting government funds for their social services in the first place, thus leaving themselves free to provide the services they choose. Overall, the Catholic Church seems to be trying to defend an indefensible position. I’ve just written on the same subject in “The Catholic Church Grasps the Gold”.

  28. Deborah, they will not completely free themselves until they give up tax exempt status. Until then, they are hypocrites of the first order.

    IMHO, any entity that enjoys tax exempt status should have to abide by the same public policies that control the rest of us who pay taxes.

  29. i guess i’m on the fringe because i think their tax exempt status should also be removed.

    and OS

    very few 11th century englishmen could read 11th century english.
    most of those that could were in the church

  30. pete, even in this country in the early days, in many rural areas the only people who were literate were often just the minister and the local magistrate, plus a small handful of others. That is one reason we see surnames spelled in such…shall we say….creative ways.

    Many ancestral names were unpronounceable by English census takers so they were written down as the census taker thought they sounded. That was especially true of Gaelic names, some of which sounded more like a coughing fit than a word.

  31. I can certainly see making a distinction between licensing and seeking public funds. Seeking public funding is a choice the Catholic adoption services make–in theory, at least, they can perform their service without public funds. Therefore, when they seek public funding, they choose to interact with the state and, therefore, it’s not at all unreasonable to require them to comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

    In contrast, in order to provide adoption services, the Catholic adoption services have no choice but to obtain a state-issued license. In that sense, they don’t choose to interact with the state (other than in the limited sense that they choose to provide the service) and, accordingly, it’s not unfair to allow them more leeway where bona fide religious belief conflicts with state law.

    On the other hand, the state may well have a more compelling interest in insisting that religious organizations providing social services comply with certain licensing requirements even if they conflict with religious tenets–requirements intended to protect the welfare of the adoptees, for example.

  32. Dredd, As a person of Faith, I am appalled by the statements of some running in the primary now as well as currently seated legislators, etc who call for acceptance of all religiions (but preferably Christian it seems) but not if you are an atheist.
    You know Rev Mueller’s poem, First they came for the Jews.

    The simple question is: “What is better? A child with a loving adult to care for them or a child raised in foster care or an orphanage?”
    That is the problem. They would prefer and this has been their position for a long time, better an orphanage of fostering then a gay couple, better potentially horrid conditions and lack of love and abuse (and I know there are good facilities and good foster parents but that is not in all cases – too many horror stories out there.) then 2 loving parents, solely because they are homosexual and because of that, shame on them. What would Jesus do? I doubt say the heck with you gay people,, better a child not be placed then placed with 2 loving people.

  33. rcampbell –
    If an Aztec church that practiced child sacrifice wanted to get a state license to run an adoption agency, this would be a non-revenue related issue that would come into play in the determination.
    The issue is what kind of religious motivated actions should be taken into consideration in granting a license. At least I thought that was the issue.

    I don’t think that issues of civil rights should turn centrally on money. It reminds me too much of letters to congress that start “As a concerned taxpayer….”.

  34. Martin:

    Here’s some more good reading on the topic from Jefferson’s friend, James Madison, from his other masterwork (besides the US Constitution), Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785):

    Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.

    Think we’d ever have a current politician say anything like that today? The answer to that question is the problem we now face.

    Here’s the entire resolution agianst the proposed Virginia bill seeking to levy a general assessment to pay teachers of religion.:

  35. Mespo – In McCollum, the court ruled that the state was doing something that was too much in the sphere of religion.

    My comments have been that the first amendment (and this application of it) is not best described as a “wall”, since a normal wall has two sides. This “wall” only has one side.

    Whether in this case it was “too much”, versus not “too much”, is a call by the court, in view of the facts as they saw them.

    I do expect to get to Jefferson’s other writings, but those do not have the force of law, as yet anyway.

  36. You quote: “Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries.”

    Yes indeed. It seems true here in the USA, for example.
    The other case does occur, as in Poland and Solidarity.

  37. re Mespo and “Think we’d ever have a current politician say anything like that today?”

    I think that Ron Paul would; not in all that detail.
    He might not say that religion has supported tyrants, because it would be seen as a gratuitous slap.

  38. mespo, I find Jefferson’s formulation in the Danbury letter to be … inept. He says: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions,”

    It is hardly sufficient to say you allow people to think what they want (as if you could by law stop people from thinking what they want), but once they start to act on their beliefs, “they is whe we gots to draw the line, n-word”.
    Even the phrase “free exercise” belies that interpretation.

    Also speech is an action, one of the most human actions; and assembling.

  39. I do not get it. If a woman is giving a baby up for adoption and she decides to have the RCC place the baby with a devout RC family, and she does that, is the church then discriminating if it refuses to place the child in a home that does not practice Catholicism? I mean, I’m genuinely confused. If it’s about funding, the Church needs to stop receiving money from the federal government for adoption services; let the Church pay for its own adoption services. Let it discriminate in accordance with its own guidelines, too, unless it is actually harming parents or children illegally by doing so (say, by giving children to heterosexual families like Jerry Sandusky and his wife or something).

    Or am I missing something?

    If only the RCC didn’t have to pay out so many big settlements to the victims of priest sexual abuse, they’d have enough $$$$$$$$$ leftover to run all the adoptions in the world and have a surplus, especially considering the number of babies born because of the rules against birth control…

  40. Didnt reall all comments so apologize if been said already (which most probably has been (: ) but talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth. I passed a Catholic curch yesterday with the crosses outside and sign saying this how many babies murdered. Catholic church very republican, we only care once they are born and then the heck with them, no adopion services from us, well we don’t care as long as fetuses are carried to term.

  41. So according to the church, gays are not fit to be parents, but apparently they are perfectly fit to be priests. Anyone see the irony here? The Catholic church is willing to shut down adoption agencies at the expense of children who desperately need a good home, but they are perfectly willing to look the other way when it comes to cleaning up their own house, and all that that implies. Why the double standard? Don’t the same religious principles apply? Once again, it is the children who will suffer.

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