Friday, December 30, 2011

Requirement to consider gay couples for adoption forces Illinois Catholic Charities affiliates to close

After the Illinois state legislature passed a requirement that says adoption and foster-care agencies — to be eligible for state money — must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care or adoptive parents, the Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois decided to shut down most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened: Massachusetts and Washington D.C. both passed similar requirements — and many Catholic Charities affiliates closed down in those states, as well. The New York Times reports:

For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services. …

Critics of the church argue that no group has a constitutional right to a government contract, especially if it refuses to provide required services.

But Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel and associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, disagreed. “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract,” he said, “but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.

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