Catholic Bishops Spurn Nondiscrimination Laws

Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have followed colleagues in other states, rejecting nondiscrimination laws, which they say diminishes their religious freedoms.

Bishops in Illinois have decided not to side with Catholic Charities affiliates who comply with new requirements that say they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents. The requirements say the charities must include these groups if they want to continue to receive state funds, according The New York Times.

The charities have served the community for almost half a century and are a major link in Illinois’ social service network for poor and neglected children.

Bishops from Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts have also disassociated themselves with adoption services who comply with nondiscrimination laws. The church leaders see the requirements in Illinois as an example of what they say is a rising effort by the government to diminish their religious freedoms, while expanding the rights of the gay community.

This latest conflict is could be construed as part of an ongoing theme that many religious groups- especially evangelical Christians- are victims of government-backed persecution.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

Paprocki attempted to help the church retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services, but failed.

The bishops blame religious believers and churches that support gay equality, as well as gay rights advocates, for these kinds of conflicts. They feel that those groups make the issue into a matter of civil rights, accusing Catholic Charities of using taxpayer funds to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Tim Kee, an Illinois teacher, was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his partner tried to adopt a child. He told The Times that he and his partner were both Catholic and both went to church.

“We love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. … my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me,” Kee said.

In another battle waged against nondiscrimination laws, bishops have asked the Obama administration to lift a new requirement that Catholic hospitals must cover contraception in their employees’ health plans. They also protest a denial of a federal contract to provide care for victims of sex trafficking, calling the decision anti-Catholic.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the bishops’ program was rejected because it refused to provide the victims of sex trafficking with referrals for abortions or contraceptives. Some critics argue that churches have no constitutional right to a government contract.

However, Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel and associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, argues that while the church has no First Amendment right to have a government contract, it has a First Amendment right not be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.

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