Wednesday, June 08, 2011

No religious exemption in civil unions law...

We all knew this was coming.
With all the discussion leading up to the Illinois civil unions law which went into effect a week ago, no one in Springfield could guarantee that a law intended to protect the rights of gay couples would not leave Catholic Charities (and other faith-based service agencies) liable to charges of discrimination in continuing the long-standing policy of placing children only with married couples or committed single persons. Evidently, no one in Springfield is even now prepared to take a clear stand on the matter of a religious exemption. And so, rather than wait for charges to be brought, or to summarily dissolve ties with state and leave hundreds of vulnerable kids to the already-overburdened DCFS, Catholic Charities is seeking the protection of an injunction that will secure, in effect, the right to freedom of conscience. (Catholic Charities of Rockford dissolved its contract with the state as of June 1.)
Predictably, indignant voices began sputtering about bigotry and human rights, along with non-sequiturs about admirable gay couples and the admitted abomination of the sex abuse crisis (though I haven't heard of any allegations—at all—concerning Catholic Charities). But Catholic Charities' policy does not mean that gay couples in Illinois would be unable to provide a home to a needy child. In fact, such couples were already typically referred to other agencies.
Many people cannot understand Catholic Charities' policy, but it is completely consistent with the values that led to the establishment of homes for neglected, abandoned and battered children over a hundred years ago, when the State of Illinois couldn't be bothered.
As a result of the civil unions law, with the refusal to guarantee religious freedom, the most at-risk kids in the State of Illinois have become an asterisk in the cause of gay rights. This is progress?

This post is bi-locating at the Chicago Tribune site; please add your comments there. (The atheist bloggers have already had a heyday with this news item.)

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