* The Tribune ran a story today about a consequence of the state’s new civil unions law…
The state of Illinois has declined to renew its foster care and adoption contracts with Catholic Charities across Illinois, threatening to end a historic public and private partnership initiated by the Roman Catholic Church a half century ago and displace about 2,500 foster children.
Lawyers for three of the agencies will seek an injunction from a Sangamon County judge on Tuesday.
In a letter sent last week to Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Peoria, Joliet, Springfield and Belleville, the Department of Children and Family Services told all four agencies that the state could not accept its signed contracts for the 2012 fiscal year because “your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” […]
During a meeting last month, lawyers for the attorney general’s office and DCFS reportedly told Catholic Charities that couples in civil unions must be treated the same as married couples when it comes to providing foster care services, said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society representing Catholic Charities. Spokespeople for the attorney general and DCFS could not comment immediately on Monday.
* The governor was asked about the development at a press conference this morning.
“They made a choice,” Quinn said, about the decision by the various Catholic archdiocese leaders to refuse to place foster children in the homes of couples joined by civil unions. “We’re not going back.”
“If an organization… decides they don’t want to voluntarily participate with the state,” Quinn said, “they have that choice and we honor that choice.”
* Listen to the governor’s full press conference…
* Quinn also claimed that the problem would be solved soon.
“We have other entities that are involved in foster care that are willing to assume that duty,” the governor said, without identifying any particular group. However, one group has already stepped up…
David McClure, executive director of Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, believes Catholic Charities left his agency no choice but to take care of the 330 children affected by Doran’s decision.[…]
Because agencies in the area were already approaching capacity, none could add Catholic Charities’ more than 300 families to its caseload all at once. While distributing the workload among different agencies was a possibility, families would be assigned new caseworkers and staff at Catholic Charities would simply lose their jobs. […]
McClure said he believed it could be done as long as all the resources accompanied the operation. DCFS assured him that would be the case.
“I just couldn’t find a good reason not to do it,” McClure said. “If we have the money to do it and they need it to be done, why would we not?”
* More on the dispute…
Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society, represents Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Joliet, Peoria and Springfield. “The idea that a religious entity needs to check its religion at the door when it takes state money is a false idea,” Breen says.
For decades, he says, Catholic Charities has referred unmarried couples — regardless of their sexual orientation — to other agencies or back to DCFS, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
“If the theory behind civil unions is live and let live, then those folks who are for civil unions can also be for Catholic Charities, and other religiously based adoption agencies, to provide services to the state which are valuable. And [the agencies] can continue to do it without shutting down — without compromising their deeply held religious beliefs,” says Breen.
Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for DCFS, says separate but equal just isn’t good enough and the state’s anti-discrimination position is clear.
* Jeff Ward at the Elgin Courier-News also tossed in his two cents…
Since we last talked, the Joliet, Peoria and Springfield dioceses sued the state to force the issue as to whether they’re exempt from placing children with same-sex civil union partners. Those Catholics want to continue referring “unmarried” folks to other agencies, as they’ve done all along.
As much seeing my tax dollars go to a group that unfairly singles out gays makes me cringe, I hope they win their lawsuit. You see, these church adoption services are so superior to any state-run (and most private) programs that by applying their own greater good principle, I can accept something somewhat distasteful in consideration of the more pressing need for these children to find stable homes.