Legal challenges at the city, state, and federal level threaten religious child placement agencies’ government funding and state-sanctioned protection from discrimination lawsuits. Refusing to supplant their Biblical convictions about marriage to LGBT demands took its toll in 2018.
“Policymakers and Christ-followers need to understand that the end goal of LGBT activist groups is clear—they want to exclude believers from operating child welfare agencies according to their faith and even from being adoptive or foster parents,” said Eric Teetsel, director of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas.
Case in point: In May, Teetsel championed a new Kansas law that protects religious agencies from ruinous lawsuits. But Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, a Democrat, called the law “discriminatory” and promised to undermine it.
A federal judge in Michigan ruled Sept. 14 that a case brought by a lesbian couple against that state’s protective law can go forward. The lawsuit could jeopardize the standing of similar laws in seven states.
On the municipal front, officials in Philadelphia and Buffalo, N.Y., after decades of partnering with religious child placement agencies, suddenly demanded they place children with same-sex couples or lose their contracts.
The agencies’ response was mixed. Rather than capitulate, Catholic Charities of Buffalo will let its contract expire in March 2019. In Philadelphia, Bethany Christian Services quietly acquiesced to the demand while Catholic Social Services sued to keep its contract according to its Biblical convictions. Arguments in that case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, went before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 6.
At the federal level, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard arguments Nov. 30 in Marouf v. Azar. A married lesbian couple from Texas sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in February for contracting with U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and its subcontractor, Catholic Charities, for the care of refugee children. Catholic Charities refused to place a refugee child with the couple.
And the Anti-Defamation League has questioned the constitutionality of HHS funds filtered to religious child placement agencies via the South Carolina Department of Social Services. The organization contends a South Carolina agency’s requirement that prospective parents be confessing Christians amounts to an unconstitutional religious litmus test.
Forcing Christian agencies to close rather than fight expensive litigation would devastate an already overburdened child welfare system, Teetsel told me. —B.P.