The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Ill., has announced that they will be severing ties with their Social Services agency due to Illinois’ Civil Union Law.
“When Illinois Catholic Charities agencies said they would refuse to place children with unmarried or same sex couples through their foster care and adoption programs, the battle lines were drawn,” said the diocese in a statement.
“After losing in a Sangamon County court and at the appellate level, CSS executive director, Gary Huelsmann, said the agency, along with its board of directors and in discussions with Bishop Edward K. Braxton, decided to sever the relationship between the agency and the diocese.”
Jeff Field, director of Communications for the Catholic League, told The Christian Post this decision is part of ongoing tension between Illinois state government and the Catholic Church.
“The tension has been caused by the Illinois government's refusal to fund Catholic programs that refuse to acknowledge homosexual marriage,” said Field.
“Religious charities, whether they be Christian, Jewish or Catholic should absolutely be allowed to run their organization according to their religious tenets, even if they receive public funding.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, agreed that the Illinois decision was wrong.
“Catholic adoption agencies are morally constrained by their core religious convictions from providing services to same-sex couples,” said Smith.
“It is unfortunate that the Illinois government did not provide an exemption that would have allowed them to continue to provide services to the public consistent with their religious convictions.”
Smith saw this episode as being part of “a troubling pattern” in which religious conscience was being ignored by state and federal governments.
While Catholic and religious liberty groups look upon the situation for Catholic Charities in Illinois as unfortunate, others do not believe the Diocese should have been given an exemption.
“It is the job of the adoption agency to find safe, loving homes for these children,” said Brian H. McNeill of the Catholic gay rights organization Rainbow Sash Alliance in an interview with The Christian Post.
“The risk to children of abuse or neglect after adoption by an LGBT couple is no higher than it is after adoption by a heterosexual couple.”
While McNeill generally agreed that publicly funded religious charities should be allowed to run their organizations in accordance with their views, he also there should be a limit.
“If those ‘moral viewpoints’ include the teaching that LGBT people are ‘objectively disordered’ and ‘oriented towards an intrinsic moral evil’ then they should not expect to receive contracts from a government that sees these positions as discriminatory,” McNeill asserted.
The Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois was founded by the Belleville Diocese in 1947. Its name will be changed to Christian Social Services and all official ties to the diocese will be severed by February 2012.
Signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Jan. 31, Illinois’ Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act or “Civil Union Law,” gave same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.
The act continues to receive criticism by many who do not believe it adequately protects the rights of religious organizations regarding issues like adoption.