Civil Unions Law Forces Adoption Retreat
Special Report - June 1, 2011
In yet another example of the growing threat to religious freedom from the legalization of same-sex unions, Catholic Charities of Rockford, Illinois, will end its 100 year-old state-funded adoption and foster care services today to avoid the possibility of having to place children with same-sex couples when Illinois’ new civil unions law takes effect. Signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on January 31, the “Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act,” made the state (at that time) the sixth in the nation to enact legislation that extends nearly all of the same rights and privileges of marriage to homosexual couples. Since that time, two more states (Hawaii and Delaware) have passed similar laws. Although the Illinois law includes an exemption for “any religious body” to refuse to officiate or solemnize civil unions, it does not include a specific exemption for religious charities or other groups, such as Catholic Charities, that do business with the State.
At a press conference on May 26, leaders of the Rockford Diocese, which serves 11 counties in northern Illinois, announced that because that exemption is still missing, Catholic Charities of Rockford will no longer operate its state-funded adoption and foster care program, which entitled it to $7.5 million in state funds. “Catholic Charities and other religious agencies implored the State of Illinois to allow their agencies to refer such couples to other adoption and foster care agencies so as to not violate the moral teachings of their faith,” Penny Wiegert, director of communication for the Rockford Diocese, said in a statement. “Tragically, that did not happen. The state legislature failed to pass an explicit amendment exempting religious entities from the application of the civil unions law in its state-funded adoption and foster care programs.”
The state-funded services that will no longer be provided by Catholic Charities of Rockford include state-funded foster care placement and counseling, state-funded adoption services and adoption counseling, as well as state-funded parenting classes and family support services. All of the non-state funded services provided by Catholic Charities of Rockford, such as private adoptions, will continue. The Rockford Diocese is one of six Catholic dioceses in Illinois, which together provide about 20 percent of the adoption and foster care services in the state. According to Catholic News Service, there is no word yet on how the other five dioceses will respond to the Illinois civil unions law.
“The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion. Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion,” Wiegert continued. “We simply cannot compromise the spirit that motivates us to deliver quality, professional services to families by letting our state define our religious teachings.”
This is not the first time that the legalization of same-sex unions has conflicted with religious liberty for faith-based charities in the United States. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., as well as Catholic Charities of Boston, Massachusetts, have also discontinued their adoption and foster care services because of state laws legalizing same-sex “marriage.”
Delaware Approves Civil Unions - April 19, 2011
Marriage Battle Rundown - February 2, 2011
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