(WNS) — A bill sitting in the U.S. House would force faith-based adoption agencies to choose between closing their doors and violating their religious beliefs. Catholic Charities, the largest private network of social service organizations in the nation, has already ended adoption services in several cities in Illinois because of such restrictions.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would force any group that receives federal aid to place kids in foster families and adoptive families without regard to the sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of the prospective parents.
“It would have the effect of either banning Christian adoption agencies or forbidding them from acting on their faith convictions and their moral convictions in terms of what is in the best interest of a child,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, told the Catholic News Agency.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., has 52 co-sponsors in the House. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., plans to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
Gay activists and their allies claim the legislation is the key to finding homes for waiting children. Yet, in 2009, a record 57,000 U.S. kids in foster care found forever families, up from 37,000 in 1998, according to a recent Child Trends study reported in “The Washington Times.” Researchers also found that the number of children waiting for adoption fell to a record low of 115,000 in 2009, down from 135,000 three years earlier.
In Illinois, Catholic Charities handles about 20 percent of the foster care and adoption cases. In March of this year, the Attorney General’s office issued a letter stating that the office “received notice that Catholic Charities ... discriminates against Illinois citizens based on race, marital status and sexual orientation” in the provision of foster care and adoption services and demanded that they turn over a wide range of documents in response. It has been Catholic Charities’ long-standing position not to place children for adoption and foster care with non-married couples who live together.
Leaders of three Catholic dioceses in Illinois responded with legal action. They have filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that the charities are in full compliance with Illinois law in their current practices and an injunction against further action by Illinois government officials to the contrary. The charities argue that the Illinois Human Rights Act exempts religious adoption agencies from the provisions relied upon by the Attorney General’s office, and that the new Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act includes an express protection for the religious freedom of entities like Catholic Charities.
The charities ask the court to declare that they are legally justified to continue their current practices of working only with married couples and single, non-cohabiting individuals. Civil union couples are free to choose among dozens of other organizations for these services.
Steven Roach, Executive Director for Catholic Charities in the Springfield Diocese, said, “It’s tragic that there are people who believe unnecessarily disrupting the lives of thousands of vulnerable children is an acceptable outcome in this situation.”
“This represents one more case,” said Sprigg, “in which we are seeing the rights of adults placed ahead of the best interests of the children.”
This article published on June 13, 2011. Copyright 2011 WORLD Magazine. Used by permission. All rights reserved.