Catholic Charities plans to appeal Sangamon County, Ill., Circuit Judge John Schmidt’s Aug. 18 ruling that sided with the state, which severed work with Catholic Charities after the agency refused to recognize Illinois’ civil union law. Breen an attorney for the charity also will ask the judge to reconsider, then take the matter to a state appellate court if Schmidt declines.
The overriding issue seems to be does the organizational religious rights trump individual rights when it comes to treating gay people equally. Catholic Charities maintains it has a right to practice discrimination against gay couples seeking adoption/foster care in Illinois because it is in the best interest of the Child. Clearly the issue developing is one of individual’s rights vs. institutional rights under the US Constitution.
According to a Press Release issued by the Bishop Thomas John Paprocki “The State of Illinois is actively taking steps to push Catholic Charities of the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria and Springfield out of foster care services, which would end a partnership that dates back to the mid-1960s with the creation of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The message from the state of Illinois is simple: Organizations that only place children in accord with their religious beliefs are barred from state contracts – Catholics need not apply.”
Are religious beliefs the issue as the Bishop seems to imply or is discrimination the issue as the state maintains?
Catholic Charities has argued that it developed a “property interest” in the work after 40 years of annually renewed contracts with the state, and that the agency should be able to object to state action.
But in his ruling, Schmidt said no one, including Catholic Charities, has a legal right to a contract with state government. He did not address the more sensitive issue of whether a state contractor that refuses to serve gays and lesbians is violating the state’s new civil union’s law.
Kendall Marlowe, a state Department of Children and Family Services spokesman, said the department had no immediate reaction to Catholic Charities’ plan to appeal. A spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney general’s office, which represented the DCFS, declined to comment Monday.
The outcome of this appeal will affect the rights of individuals over institutional rights. Clearly in other jurisdictions such as Washington, DC, and Boston the courts ruled in favor of individual rights. The sad outcome of this situation is Catholic Charities reputation is being ruined while its attorneys try to tap dance around the issue with legal smoke and mirrors.
It is time to move the legal dispute from Gay rights vs. religious freedom to gay rights and religious freedom. In the context of Gay Marriage and Religious freedom this debate should not be seen as competing interests rather a promotion of discrimination over equality under the law. At stake is the promotion of discrimination in name of religious freedom.
Rainbow Sash Movement