A couple suing Catholic Charities of North Dakota (CCND) for $6.5 million claims the ministry rejected them as prospective parents because they were living together and not married when they began their adoption application process. But attorneys for the adoption and foster care agency say the couples’ character, not their marital status, proved their undoing.
James and Tahnee Young of Fargo, N.D., met with a social worker in March, five months before their wedding. The couple, now married, said they wanted their prospective daughter, a teenager they selected from an online profile but never met, to take part in the wedding. They asked the agency to expedite their application. In the following weeks, the couple’s “rude and entitled” behavior prompted the assessment team to disqualify them as prospective parents, according to court documents.
Assuming their cohabitation had barred them from adopting and claiming no attorney would take their case, the Youngs drafted their own lawsuit against CCND and employees affiliated with the ministry and another adoption agency, Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK).
“Catholic Charities had an obligation to ignore the church’s teachings and do what is in the best interest of the child by moving forward as soon as possible on the adoption with the plaintiffs,” the Youngs said in their complaint, Young v. Catholic Charities of North Dakota.
Catholic Charities does not place children with unmarried couples but AASK, the agency facilitating the Youngs’ application, has no such prohibition.
Defense attorneys asked the court to dismiss the “frivolous” lawsuit, citing its “complete absence of actual facts or law” and its numerous filing errors.
North Dakota is among a handful of states that provide legal cover for faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. Dismissing the Youngs’ lawsuit as an ill-conceived money grab would miss an opportunity to reiterate those protections in the face of crushing legal attacks from more formidable challengers. —B.P.