Three adoption and foster care agencies of Catholic Charities have been joined by another influential group, Catholic Social Services, as they seek protection from compulsion to place children with gay or cohabiting couples.
The Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois from Belleville petitioned a Sangamon County judge to let them join Catholic Charities for the Dioceses of Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet as plaintiffs in their lawsuit filed in June, Belleville agency’s legal representative Thomas More Society said in a statement Tuesday.
The suit seeks relief against efforts by the Illinois attorney general’s office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to halt the Roman Catholic agencies from any further participation in state’s programs for foster care and adoption.
The state has until Friday to object to the Southern Illinois agency’s entry into the suit, according to Chicago Tribune.
The bone of contention is the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which came into effect in Illinois on June 1 allowing homosexuals in civil unions the right to adopt or provide foster care. The state does not seem convinced that religious agencies that receive public funds to license foster care parents have the right to turn away couples in civil unions even if it violates their policies based on their religious beliefs.
On July 8, DCFS cut off its link with Catholic Charities in the three Illinois dioceses, alleging non-compliance. As an apparent build up to the state’s move, the attorney heneral’s office had sent a letter to Catholic Charities, saying they had received complaints concerning their “discriminatory” practices in March.
However, on July 12, Illinois Judge John Schmidt granted the three Illinois Catholic Charities a preliminary injunction, allowing them to continue their service “in the best interest of Illinois children and families.”
At a subsequent hearing on July 18, Judge Schmidt ruled that DCFS must allow Catholic Charities to operate as it had before the fiscal year 2011 contract expired on June 30, directing DCFS to refer new cases to the agencies and allowing them to take foster parent applications according to their religious practice and be compensated with state funding for their work.
The Chicago-based public interest law firm also announced that the four Catholic agencies would file another complaint against the state for violating their clients’ constitutional right to due process of law by terminating their rights to contract with the state without any substantive basis in law, and without any reasonable prior notice or opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time or in a meaningful manner.
This, the law firm added, was in addition to the charge that the state “distorted the meaning of relevant Illinois statutes, including the recently effective ‘Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,’ ignoring that Act’s explicit exemption for ‘religious practice.’”
The Catholic agencies want the court to declare they have been and continue to be in full compliance with Illinois law in their foster care and adoption practices. They are also seeking a permanent injunction against any further action by Illinois government officials.
It’s about welfare of children in need, the law center indicated. Agencies of Catholic Charities, including Catholic Social Services, serve about a quarter of Illinois’ abandoned, abused, and neglected children, “achieving the paramount goal of ‘permanency’ in a remarkable number of cases and proving especially fruitful in recruiting new foster parents willing to care for needy kids,” it noted.
The conflict has led some Catholics to believe their agencies are being targeted like their counterparts in Western Europe thanks to secularism. Catholic Online recently said, “What is happening in Illinois is one more sign of the growing effort to force the Church to compromise with the new Caesar.” This “growing persecution,” added the website, began last year in the U.K. and “is now spreading like a tidal wave to the United States of America.”