The state of Michigan has lost its attempt to close a Catholic adoption agency that wants to operate according to its religious beliefs.
Catholic Charities West Michigan asked a court to stop officials from illegally targeting it and forcing it to close because of its religious beliefs. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tried to enforce a new policy that targets the ministry’s policy prioritizing the placement of children in homes with a mother and father.
The group filed a lawsuit against the state asking the court to protect Catholic Charities from being singled out, punished, or disfavored because of its religious beliefs—beliefs that motivate its care for children, birth parents, and other vulnerable members of the community. The lawsuit further argues that the new rule violates a 2015 state law specifically enacted to ensure that providers like Catholic Charities could maintain contracts with the state while maintaining their religious beliefs.
Today, a federal judge just ruled against Michigan’s attorney general who attempted to shut down faith based foster and adoption agencies unless they would abandon their beliefs about marriage and family.
“More adoption and foster care providers mean more children have the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman, who argued before the court for the adoption agency.
He added: “Michigan law already affirms that faith-based ministries, including Catholic Charities West Michigan, provide key services to the state and may continue to serve children in a way that aligns with their beliefs. Protecting Catholic Charities does nothing to burden other providers who hold different convictions, but shutting down this nonprofit, faith-based provider means fewer children are reunited with their birth parents or placed with loving foster or adoptive parents.”
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, she told LifeNews she was delighted by the news.
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“Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel and the ACLU thought they could hatch a backdoor agreement to force ideological conformity in the state’s foster care and adoption program and nothing could stop them – not state law, existing contracts or long-established practices. A federal judge has stepped in to stop their backroom deal and affirm the rule of law. Both state and federal law protect faith-based agencies like St. Vincent Catholic Charities to find loving homes for needy kids without having to abandon their religious teachings on the family,” she said.
For more than 70 years, Catholic Charities has served Western Michigan by offering a wide array of child welfare, family preservation, and behavioral health services. Within the past decade, the charity has placed approximately 4,500 children in homes and annually serves more than 21,000 individuals through its more than 35 ministries. Its foster care ministry focuses on family reunification and provides support well above the state’s minimum requirements. Catholic Charities offers monthly foster parent training opportunities; funding for children’s medical, dental, clothing, and extracurricular needs; and transportation for birth parents so they can be involved with children’s activities, despite temporary separation.
According to the lawsuit, Catholic Charities West Michigan v. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the department changed its policy after settling another lawsuit, Dumont v. Lyon. In January 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state agency on behalf of two same-sex couples to stop it from contracting with faith-based foster care and adoption providers throughout the state. Although Michigan’s previous attorney general defended the agency’s ability to partner with such providers, the current attorney general, Dana Nessel, has refused to do so and has instead instructed the agency to exclude faith-based providers from contracts if they won’t agree to violate their own beliefs about marriage and family. Without a contract from the state of Michigan, Catholic Charities would be required to immediately suspend their foster care and public adoption ministry.
The lawsuit asks the court to protect Catholic Charities from being singled out, punished, or disfavored because of its religious beliefs—beliefs that motivate its care for children, birth parents, and other vulnerable members of the community. The lawsuit further argues that the new rule violates a 2015 state law specifically enacted to ensure that providers like Catholic Charities could maintain contracts with the state while maintaining their religious beliefs.