The state of Michigan has agreed to pay a Catholic ministry $250,000 in attorney’s fees for trying to force the non-profit to violate its religious beliefs by placing children in LGBT homes.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), as part of a stipulated court order and judgment approved by a federal judge Monday, conceded that it likely would lose a lawsuit filed by the ministry in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in a separate case. The department agreed to pay $250,000 in attorney’s fees to Catholic Charities West Michigan, which had sued the state in 2019.
The controversy began in 2019 when Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, announced that all foster care and adoption agencies that contract with the state must work with LGBT couples. Catholic Charities West Michigan then sued the state, arguing Nessel’s order violated state law, the Michigan Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
Founded in 1947, Catholic Charities West Michigan affirms Catholic teaching that “marriage is the sacramental union of one man and one woman,” according to the lawsuit.
The ministry has placed 4,500 children in homes over the past year. Without a state contract, Catholic Charities “would be required to immediately suspend their foster care and public adoption ministry,” said its legal representative, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
As part of the court order, MDHHS also agreed that it would not terminate a contract with Catholic Charities because of its religious beliefs.
ADF applauded the court order.
“More adoption and foster care providers mean more children have the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family,” said ADF senior counsel Jeremiah Galus. “Catholic Charities West Michigan meets a critical need as one of the region’s largest social service providers, reuniting children with their birth parents and placing foster kids in loving homes. We are pleased Catholic Charities can continue its vital mission serving vulnerable families in Michigan without being punished by the government simply because it’s operating according to its religious beliefs—the very reason the ministry exists in the first place.”
A 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision has changed the legal landscape on such cases. Last year, the high court ruled that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment when it tried forcing a Catholic foster care agency to place children in same-sex homes. The decision was unanimous (9-0).
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.