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Illinois, Catholic Agencies At Odds Over Gay Adoptions

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
July 5, 2011

In Illinois, civil unions for gay couples became legal last month. Now, a battle is brewing over whether faith-based groups must change their practices and help gay couples adopt.

The day after civil unions went into effect in Illinois last month, Chicago’s lush, flower-filled Millennium Park was full of music, families, friends and reporters. Circuit court judges conducted civil unions for more than 30 gay and lesbian couples. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called it a historic day for Illinois.

“There are all kinds of different families in Illinois, and we understand and love one another. We understand that it is very, very important to have civil rights and civil unions,” Quinn says.

But the law allowing civil unions has put the state and some faith-based organizations at odds. Catholic Charities agencies in five Illinois dioceses, which had received state funds to provide foster care and adoption services, only placed children with straight married couples or straight single people who lived alone.

As the civil union law went into effect, Catholic Charities in Rockford, Ill., ended its adoption service over concerns that it would have to place children with same-sex couples or face discrimination lawsuits. Catholic Charities in three other Illinois dioceses put licensing any new prospective parents on hold and sued the state.

Adoption By Religious Standards

Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society, represents Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Joliet, Peoria and Springfield, Ill.

“The idea that a religious entity needs to check its religion at the door when it takes state money is a false idea,” Breen says.

For decades, he says, Catholic Charities has referred unmarried couples — regardless of their sexual orientation — to other agencies or back to DCFS, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

If the theory behind civil unions is live and let live, then those folks who are for civil unions can also be for Catholic Charities, and other religiously based adoption agencies, to provide services to the state which are valuable. And (the agencies) can continue to do it without shutting down—without compromising their deeply held religious beliefs,” says BREEN.

Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for DCFS says separate but equal just isn’t good enough and the state’s anti-discrimination position is clear.

“All agencies working for the Department of Children and Family Services must obey Illinois law,” he says.

At the heart of the matter is whether this law allows a religious exemption. Breen argues that adoption is part of the church’s mission. Yale University law professor William Eskridge says the court will likely reject that reasoning.

“I don’t know of any court decision that holds that ancillary services — including adoption services or, say, educational services — as part of the core religious mission,” Eskridge says.

Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., and Boston shut down publicly funded foster care and adoption services after gay marriage became legal. Eskridge says if the agencies are successful in Illinois, that could prompt legal fights elsewhere.

Civil Rights In The Household

In their living room, college professors Nancy Matthews and Lisa Frohman are watching their 10-year-old son Eli as he downloads Iron Man 2 onto their flat screen TV.

The couple traveled out of state to adopt Eli. They say the Illinois civil union law will make it easier for gay and lesbian couples who don’t want to hide their sexuality as they try to adopt. Frohman calls the Catholic Charities lawsuit frustrating.

“If this is about the care of children, then that should be the focus. Being a qualified, loving person is not about your sexuality,” she says.

But, Matthews says, she can understand the conflict between deeply held principles and civil rights in American culture.

“Part of me just says, well, if they don’t want to do it, someone else will take their place. But maybe, in some towns, there aren’t other agencies doing this work, and that creates a problem,” Matthews says.

The Catholic Charities in Illlinois that have sued the state say they want to continue to provide homes for children — but only by their guidelines. It will now be up to a judge to make that decision. The state’s deadline to respond to the lawsuit is this week. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

3 Responses to “Illinois, Catholic Agencies At Odds Over Gay Adoptions”

  1. Aaron says:

    My best friend Matt was sexually abused by a catholic priest in Peoria, Illinois (at St Mark's Perish) for several years. This abuse began when Matt was only 8 years old; just a child who went to his priest for help.

    Mr. Breene seems so concerned about catholic values being compromised when adopting children to the gay parents. Is Mr. Breene ever concerned about the children who were molested by the pedophile catholic priest in Peoria, the diocese which he represents. Or any concern about the catholic church moving the pedophile priests after they are caught (instead of turning them into the authorities), so that they can abuse more children elsewhere.

    What I am puzzled about is why an organization such as the catholic church which has a proven history of pedophilia, is receiving funds from the State.

    • Dough says:

      Why didn't the parents report the abuse immediately? Why didn't Matt report the abuse when he was old enough? WHY DIDN'T YOU REPORT IT? There are too many stories of people wanting to hop on the gravy train claiming abuse only for the money. According to very extensive studies, Catholic clergy and teachers are LESS LIKELY to have sexually abused children than Protestants and the general population. That doesn't make it OK, but it does indicate your callous comments are inappropriate. False and vicious comments such as yours are why people believe the sinful conduct of those priests and, yes, even bishops, is much more widespread than it actually is. What if I said all men named Aaron were perverts? While there may be some, it is doubtful all are and such a statement would be wrong, wouldn't it be Aaron?

  2. Angelo Stagnaro says:

    I completely agree with Aaron. Any group or individual even tangentially related to a group that has had even a single misanthrope within its ranks must be excluded from receiving any monies from the state. Unfortunately, this would also mean all irreligionists and anti-religionists considering the evil they caused during the reign of terror that was communism. For those who are counting, atheist communists managed to kill more than 100 million people within the course of 80 years. As you see, Aaron, wild, unthought-out, anti-intellectual claims like yours have a way of biting you in the rear. Oh! And by the way, I was molested by someone who, like you, was anti-Catholic. Will you be sacrificing your own sanctimonious self in his stead? Will you be accepting the punishment that should be his and his alone? And, as long as you're accepting all of this is misdirected blame upon your own bigoted shoulders, I presume you will also be offering yourself up for the sins of your confreres for ignoring Roman Polanski's escaping justice for more than 35 years. Will you be serving time for him? How about his many supporters who claim that the "girl really wanted to be abused" or "Well…he's an artist and should be forgiven" or "Well…that was a very long time ago?" These people should be punished also, shouldn't they be? They are circumventing justice and helping a pedophile. If you poll these people, they are would agree with you that all Catholic priests were pedophiles but they all lack the intelligence to realize their own mistakes. It's a pity that stupidity isn't against the law. If it were, you and they and Roman Polanski could all comfort each other in prison as you try to convince each other and yourselves as to how "open-minded" you all are.

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