As someone whose extended family has been significantly impacted by the foster care system, this story out of Illinois was of interest to me personally—but the implications for the over 2,000 children involved and for Christians are profound.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported week that the state of Illinois has acted to sever its longstanding relationship with Catholic Charities. The state has found Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services to be in non-compliance with the states new law authorizing civil unions. The Trib reports:

In letters sent last week to Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Peoria, Joliet and Springfield and Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said the state could not accept their signed contracts for the 2012 fiscal year.

Each letter said funding was declined because your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which the state says requires prospective parents in civil unions to be treated the same as married couples.

Illinois civil unions law contains exemptions for those religious bodies that do not want to perform or officiate civil unions. But as weve stated elsewhere, so called religious exemptions are usually just a way of greasing the skids to get controversial legislation passed. The exemptions could be challenged in court or be removed by future legislation. In a classic example of dont believe their talking points, Equality Illinois published this statement about the law on their website under a section titled Religious Freedom prior to its passage:

  • This Act would also not impact faith-based adoption agencies or adoption procedures. The Act does not amend the Adoption Act.

Thankfully the Catholic Charities is not taking this lying down. The three agencies in question have filed suit with the Thomas Moore Law Center against the Illinois attorney general and DCFS. Their request is altogether reasonable:

In the lawsuit, the agencies sought the courts permission to preserve their current policy of granting licenses to married couples and single, non-cohabiting individuals and referring couples in civil unions to other child welfare agencies.

Some readers may remember that in 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston ceased doing adoptions rather than violate their conscience and religious convictions by placing children with homosexual couples. We hope and pray that Catholic Charities in Illinois will receive a better legal outcome.

What is fascinating in this debate is that you have the state claiming that the law requires Catholic Charities give homosexual couples in civil unions equal consideration with married coupleseven though the social science data overwhelming demonstrates that children do best when raised by a married mother and father. A cursory reading of the social science makes it obvious that not all family situations are equal in the benefit they provide to children. (See Dr. Pat Fagans work on the MARRI project here, here and here for starters.). And yet the state demands that adoption and foster care agencies treat different family structures as if they were, in fact, the same.

While Catholic Charities works for the undeniable good of placing children in the best family situations available, the state of Illinois has embraced a social experiment wherein the best interests of children becomes subordinate to special interests of a vocal minority.

Finally, its important to remember why the state is involved in adoption and foster care services in the first place: to serve the best interest of the children under its care, not to bestow parenthood on individuals or couples desirous of the title or affirmation. Its about the children. Or at least it used to be in Illinois. Might one legitimately ask when the state will decide that Christians who disagree with normalizing homosexuality are unfit to serve as adoptive or foster parents?

Christians across our nation have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ by welcoming children in need into their families. Our friends at Focus on the Family have some great resources and a model in Colorado for making a difference through adoption and foster care.