Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality
This latest flap in Chicago could be chalked up as reason number one thousand to end faith-based funding.
This from yesterday’s Windy City Times:
While three faith-based foster care agencies receive state funding in excess of roughly $40 million annually as contractors with the state of Illinois responsible for licensing foster parents, LGBT advocates have cried foul as these agencies all have policies denying licenses to openly gay and lesbian parents. The agencies, advocates argue, are discriminating against queer applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation, while the agencies contend they are protected by religious exemptions found in state, county and city non-discrimination law.
The issue was most recently raised to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) last fall after a gay couple living in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood attempted to adopt a 15-year-old boy, a ward of the state for seven years, through the Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS). LCFS eventually denied the couple’s application despite the mens’ assertion that the agency had already known about their sexual orientations for months prior to that decision.
The controversy spurred DCFS to converse with LGBT advocates in concert with the governor’s office and state attorney’s general office to “begin to resolve the legal issues” surrounding the gay parent-barring policies of LCFS, Catholic Charities and the Evangelical Child and Family Agency. The possible result of these conversations will likely come down to a choice for the agencies involved: Change their policy and allow for openly gay and lesbian people to be licensed as foster parents or lose state funding.
But it’s not just gay and lesbian equality that is threatened here – it’s the rights of the children. Illinois children are ultimately the benefactors of these foster care programs and the government funding flowing to them. What of their right to have a family? To not have to be a ward of the state for seven years? Regardless of religious belief, when you take federal money you cannot discriminate. The problem with that statement, however is the 1964 Civil Rights Act (under which all federally funded programs must abide) doesn’t allow for protection of a person based on sexual orientation. Nor does – from a quick skim through – the Illinois Constitution.
On June 1, same-sex civil unions go into effect in Illinois – it will be interesting to see what impact that could have on foster care licensing.
According to the Windy City Times article, Lutheran Child and Family Services said it would likely begin to license gay couples as foster parents – but not Catholic Charities and Evangelical Child and Family Agency, they will continue to deny kids loving homes because their religion tells them to. It’s not like the Catholics are going to have the wolf at the door if they lose federal funding because of their refusal to recognize homosexuals as perfectly fine foster parents. It’s the Catholic Church – I am sure they can scrounge around the davenport cushions at the Vatican to continue offering adoption services in Illinois. It just makes splashy copy when they claim they will be forced to leave the adoption biz because of those rotten gay activists ruining it for everyone.
Wonder how they handle these types of things across the pond?
In a similar case – this time a Christian anti-gay couple was being denied foster care licensure because of their anti-gay beliefs – the government made a swift, clear decision. This from the Telegraph:
Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a “homosexual lifestyle” was acceptable. The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application, believing they would never be approved because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs. Today they asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and the law should protect their Christian values. But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation “should take precedence” over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.
And those wacky Brits took it a step further:
The judges had stated that “biblical Christian beliefs may be ‘inimical’ to children, and implicitly upheld an Equalities and Human Rights Commission (ECHC) submission that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs”.