* Capitol News Illinois…
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could reignite a 10-year-old controversy in Illinois over whether faith-based charities can be prohibited from contracting with the state for foster care and adoption services on the grounds that they refuse to work with unmarried or same-sex couples.
In a 9-0 decision Thursday, the nation’s high court ruled against the city of Philadelphia, which had refused to renew a contract for foster care services with Catholic Social Services, arguing that the church-based agency’s refusal to place children in the homes of unmarried and same-sex couples violated a non-discrimination clause in the agency’s contract with the city.
Illinois went through a similar controversy in 2011, shortly after the state legalized civil unions among same-sex couples, when the Department of Children and Family Services refused to renew a contract with Catholic Charities of Illinois over a similar policy.
At that time, however, a circuit court judge in Sangamon County sided with the state and dismissed a lawsuit brought by Catholic Charities.
“For us here in Illinois, had this decision been on the books when the state of Illinois did what it did back in 2011, the Catholic Charities would have been continuing in foster care,” said Peter Breen, vice president and general counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which intervened in the case.
* The big difference between Philadelphia and Illinois is discretion, as the article eventually states. From the opinion…
No matter the level of deference we extend to the City, the inclusion of a formal system of entirely discretionary exceptions in section 3.21 renders the contractual non-discrimination requirement not generally applicable
* From the Illinois ACLU…
The short answer is it will have no impact here. The Court’s narrow ruling says only that Philadelphia’s treatment of Catholic Social Services (CSS) violated the agency’s constitutional rights because the City allowed exceptions to its non-discrimination policy for other organizations — but not to CSS.
As opposed to what state courts were being asked to approve in Illinois a decade ago, the Supreme Court did not recognize a general constitutional right to discriminate based on religious beliefs. This decision does not authorize discrimination in foster care or in other taxpayer-funded government programs such as homeless shelters, disaster relief programs and health care.
We know that LGBTQ children in DCFS care already are not getting the support and services they need, as was made clear in a recent Auditor General Report. Allowing discrimination in the placement of these children will only make the problem worse. In fact, DCFS should do more to protect youth in care from insidious discrimination.