Catholics Fight Illinois Over Foster Care

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CN) – Three Roman Catholic Dioceses said they will go to court to fight Illinois’ decision to sever foster-care contracts with Catholic organizations that do not allow same-sex couples to be foster parents. The state is acting under its new civil unions law.

     Supporters of the church claim the decision is an attack on the long relationship between religiously based social work and the state, and that it will harm children who need foster homes.
     But state officials told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they cannot contract with organizations that refuse to comply with state law and that children will see little impact as other social agencies will pick up the contracts.
     Catholic Charities programs in the Dioceses of Belleville, Springfield, Peoria and Joliet had their contracts severed. The latter three dioceses said they will seek an injunction to try to stop the decision, which will affect more than 2,000 foster children in Illinois. Belleville is not part of that lawsuit.
     Illinois’ civil union law, which took effect June 1, gives same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples in virtually all areas, including the right to be foster parents.
     Many church-affiliated programs do not sanction same-sex couples as foster parents.
     “The state’s decision to cancel our contracts providing those services throws off the delicate balance of those vulnerable lives,” Brad Beck, assistant executive director of Catholic Social Services, said in a statement. “There’s a reason why the state has used agencies such as ours for decades; we help the children and families that the state cannot serve, and we do it well.
     “Catholic Social Services believes that it does not harm anyone for an unmarried couple to be served by an agency other than CSS, but that our witness is harmed when we do not hold to the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”
     The Chicago and Rockford Dioceses do not provide foster care services. The Chicago Diocese stopped its service in 2007 due to insurance issues and the Rockford Diocese stopped on June 1 due to the civil union law.
     The Rockford Diocese said it stopped its foster care service “so as not to violate the teachings of the Catholic faith” after the state refused to accept a compromise allowing the diocese to refer same-sex or unmarried couples to other agencies.

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