An Illinois Circuit Court judge upheld the state's decision to drop adoption and foster care service contracts with Catholic Charities Thursday, ignoring the group’s claims that their contracts were discontinued because of its religion-inspired policies.
Judge John Schmidt upheld the state Department of Children and Family Services decision to drop contracts with several state Catholic Charities chapters, stating the groups are not required by the state to perform adoption services.
Catholic Charities has served the state of Illinois for 100 years and is currently providing for over 2,000 foster children. However, Schmidt asserted the entity does not have a "legally-protected property interest" in the renewal of its contracts.
The Thomas More Society, a pro-life law center representing Catholic Charities, said the court did not even consider its argument that the state violated religious freedom protections when it dropped the Catholic Charities' contracts.
Peter Breen, executive director of the pro-life legal firm the Thomas More Society, explained, “What the ruling did was stated solely that the state can decided to contract or not contract anyone, for any reason.”
The state Department of Children and Family Services made the decision to discontinue working with Catholic Charities after the Illinois legislature passed the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act. The act allows homosexual couples to be joined in civil unions and adopt children.
However he says, “The Catholic Charities are acting falling in accordance with law… [but] the Catholic Church has a position against civil unions and the state is saying, in effect, that it is the belief against civil unions that is preventing the Catholic Charities from receiving a state contract.”
Prior to the trial, Breen told The Christian Post, "The government and the attorney general are implementing the civil union component [but] they have read out of the law the religious freedom protection component."
Breen said of the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, "There were repeated statements that this law wouldn't impact the religious practices of anyone. But after the act became law, our opponents are trying to infringe upon religious practices."
The American Civil Liberties Union says Catholic Charities chapters are discriminating against gay and lesbian couples at the children's expense. The Illinois ACLU chapter joined in the lawsuit in the state's defense.
ALCU-Illinois attorney Ben Wolf praised the decision stating, "[Thursday's] decision by Judge Schmidt is a good decision for the children under the care of DCFS in Illinois."
"The state has a responsibility and constitutional obligation to assure that all decisions about foster and permanent homes for children are made in the best interest of the child – not other factors including the religious views of the contractual provider,” Wolf continued.
Breen insisted the discontinued contracts discriminate against Catholic Charities Judeo-Christian faith and also violate the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he says protects against burdensome activities that counter one's religious beliefs.
Before the law took effect on June 1, Catholic Charities had made it clear that the law violated its Catholic beliefs and mission to place children with heterosexual married couples rather than co-habituating individuals.
Catholic Charities requested a meeting with the state attorney general, but instead, was issued a letter in March alleging that it "discriminates against Illinois citizens based on race, marital status and sexual orientation" in the provision of foster care and adoption services.
Breen say that he is currently studying the ruling and weighing their options.