Here’s the crux of the issue, as described by the New York Times:
“Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.”
The Illinois diocese sees itself as a victim of religious persecution. “In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” as Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki put it. The church believes that it should be able to use taxpayer dollars as it wishes, in line with its religious beliefs, even if its actions violate Illinois law forbidding discrimination against its gay citizens.
I would argue that the church is not being persecuted. It is not persecution to be held to the standards that are applied to every other contractor that does business with the state. To the contrary, the church is demanding “special rights” to violate the law and to use taxpayers’ money to do so. It’s akin to some church or social agency taking state money to run soup kitchens to feed the poor, but demanding the right to deny aid to black people or Hispanics.
The church, using its own funds, would have every right to refuse to assist in gay adoptions. The First Amendment gives it that protection. But by accepting taxpayer dollars, it accepts the conditions that come with it. As the Times reports, “Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).”
A couple of other points:
– There is no evidence that children raised by same-sex parents are harmed by the experience. Quite the contrary. In other words, the church’s objection may be based on moral grounds in its eyes, but it cannot be justified in terms of policy or pragmatism.
– It’s a shame that Illinois church leaders decided that discriminating against gay couples was more important to them than continuing to provide much-needed services to orphans and neglected children. Catholic leaders in other parts of the country have made the opposite decision.
– Jay Bookman