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Narrow US Supreme Court decision should have no impact on Illinois’ foster care program

Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - Holding Back - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 11:01 am:

    There has been a huge quality deficit with children’s care when Catholic Charities was shut out.


  2. - Shibboleth - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 11:12 am:

    I was incredibly glad to see the court release a narrow ruling. No city or state should be forced to give taxpayer money to an organization that is discriminatory. Couples with parents of the same gender are no less qualified to adopt simply because they aren’t heterosexual and I am disappointed whenever my tax dollars go to organizations that say otherwise.

    Kids need loving families, not just heterosexual Christian families.


  3. - Decaturland - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 11:15 am:

    Read Justice Alito’s concurrence. Excellent.


  4. - Nuke The Whales - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 11:38 am:

    ==There has been a huge quality deficit with children’s care when Catholic Charities was shut out.==

    Catholic Charities shut themselves out when they decided to prioritize an otherwise ignored section of the Bible over the welfare of children and dignity of its LGBT+ parishioners.


  5. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 11:45 am:

    ==Read Justice Alito’s concurrence. Excellent.==

    Not sure I would call it excellent. He basically wants to allow religious organizations to be able to do whatever they want regardless of how it might discriminate. Basically no laws against religion no matter what.


  6. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 12:16 pm:

    CSS is an amazing organization - It’s the state’s loss that they shut them out.


  7. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 12:17 pm:

    ==that they shut them out==

    They didn’t shut them out. That was a choice made by Catholic Charities when they refused to abide by the same contract everyone else has to abide by.


  8. - Yep - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 12:33 pm:

    9-0 decision is narrow?


  9. - Shibboleth - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 12:44 pm:

    ==9-0 decision is narrow==

    Narrow in scope of the ruling, not a narrow vote.

    The justices could have ruled on the larger issue, but chose to focus on the specific case. Thus, narrow.


  10. - Cumberland Dem - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 12:53 pm:

    How so “Holding Out”?


  11. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 1:03 pm:

    I believe the Lutheran Family Services organization does a good job. And since they agree with all the rules ahead of time no one has to ask themselves if they need to go to a different place and the children don’t have to be presorted either. Having all providers agree to the same rules just makes the logistics a lot easier.

    Of course if you were to replay what happened 10 years ago now it might turn out differently. Different Ordinary.


  12. - A Guy - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 1:45 pm:

    == the same contract everyone else has to abide by===

    Demo, my friend, there were very few ‘everyone else’s’ in those days. Not many more now. Of course same sex parents can be great parents and hetero parents can be lousy. At Catholic Charities, they were uniquely qualified to place those children in the best places at the most important times. No sane person would argue with that. They were remarkable social workers, who did a public service at a very low price. It was never about the money for them. Same with Lutheran Family Services, who were much smaller in terms of size. The kids didn’t win in that situation. Honestly, no one did.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 1:48 pm:

    ===They were remarkable social workers, who did a public service at a very low price. It was never about the money for them.===

    When anyone says it’s not about the money… it’s about the money.


  14. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 2:20 pm:

    To those thinking other organizations have easily filled in the gap left behind by CSS, the reality is they have not. My sister was adopted through CSS and the structure and support provided by the organization for both the birth mother and my parents wouldn’t have existed without dedicated social workers at CSS. I do not agree with the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality and hopefully one day they change their stance. The state certainly has the right not to work with CSS, but it’s unfortunate it got to this point.


  15. - anon2 - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 3:29 pm:

    The narrow ruling does not affect Illinois, but the direction of the SCOTUS in such cases suggests it eventually might.


  16. - A Guy - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 9:06 am:

    ==When anyone says it’s not about the money… it’s about the money.==

    It’s never about the money with Catholic Charities or Lutheran Family Services, goof. Except when it comes to donating more to the good causes they operate.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 9:16 am:

    === Except when it comes to donating===

    So it is about the money. If it wasn’t, following the teachings of loving one another would be a great deal easier, and no need to worry about contracts.


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