Illinois Gay Civil Unions Law Picks on Catholic Charities

Three Catholic dioceses in Illinois have gone to court over a new law that requires charities to place children with gay or unmarried couples, alleging authorities are harassing Catholic agencies.

The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act came into effect in Illinois on June 1 granting same-sex couples rights of marriage, including the right to jointly adopt. Catholic leaders complain the law is being used to scrutinize and criticize Catholic Charities for their longstanding position of not placing children eligible for adoption and foster care with unmarried couples, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

In March, the Attorney General’s office sent a letter to Catholic Charities saying they had received complaints concerning their “discriminatory” practices, Christian News Wire reported. Catholic Charities, a non-profit entity, was also asked to produce a wide range of documents.

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The dioceses of Springfield, Peoria and Jolie Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration saying Catholic Charities was in full compliance with Illinois law and an injunction against further action by Illinois government officials, the newswire said.

“It’s tragic that there are people who believe unnecessarily disrupting the lives of thousands of vulnerable children is an acceptable outcome in this situation,” the newswire quoted Steven Roach, Executive Director for Catholic Charities in the Springfield Diocese, as saying.

Catholic Charities says the Illinois Human Rights Act exempts religious adoption agencies from the provisions relied upon by the Attorney General’s office and that the new law includes protection for the religious freedom of organizations like theirs.

David E. Smith, Executive Director of the Illinois Family Institute, is concerned. “The Rockford office of Catholic Charities has already closed and we’re concerned the AG is trying to shut down Catholic Charities’ other offices that provide adoption services,” he said.

“Religious and faith-based entities need not check their beliefs at the door when providing vital social services for the benefit of the needy and vulnerable children and families in Illinois. Catholic Charities has a clear right under Illinois law to pursue its charitable good works in the true spirit of the Gospels and the Sermon on the Mount, faithful to the essential tenets of its Catholic faith,” the newswire quoted Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society as saying. Brejcha is representing Catholic Charities in the lawsuit.

In existence since 1921, Catholic Charities serves thousands of children and families, currently handling about 20 percent of the foster care cases in Illinois.

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