BELLEVILLE, ILLINOIS, February 1, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – What’s in a name? Sometimes more than meets the eye.
Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois is changing its name to Christian Social Services of Illinois as of today, but the shift is more than one of semantics. The social agency is ending its 64-year affiliation with the Diocese of Belleville so it can provide adoptions to homosexual couples.
“CSS has chosen to become independent of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville in order to adhere to the new State of Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act and to avoid closing the agency,” the formerly Catholic service stated in a press release. It added, “The mission and values of Christian Social Services will remain the same.”
Gary Huelsmann, the agency’s executive director, said, “Although we are sad to lose our Catholic identity, we are excited to be able to broaden our base of support to other Christian traditions.”
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“Why don’t they change [their name] from Catholic to pagan?” asked Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth.
“The idea of putting kids intentionally in fatherless or motherless homes is certainly not a Christian idea,” LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews.com. “If they are adopting a pro-homosexuality position, they have abandoned the historical creed and teachings of Christendom, whatever the denomination.”
Others rapped the agency for jettisoning their religious views in exchange for state funding. “State law came into conflict with God’s law, so the leaders of this group decided that God’s law would have to go,” wrote Phil Lawler, director of CatholicCulture.org.
Supporters of the civil unions bill, which Governor Pat Quinn signed into law last February, assured it would have no effect on the practices of Christian institutions. “The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act only passed after specific assurances that the law would not impact the work of religious social service agencies. Specific protections for these agencies were written into the law, but unfortunately, Illinois officials refused to abide by those protections,” said Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society last November. “This stands as a stark lesson to the rest of the nation that legislators promising ‘religious protection’ in same sex marriage and civil union laws may not be able to deliver on those promises.”
Promptly after the bill went into effect on June 1, 2011, the showdown over homosexual adoptions began. Last summer, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) removed its contract with Catholic Charities. The Diocese of Rockford ended its adoption services last May rather than comply with the order.
Facing similar pressures, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Tulsa chose to reject government funding in order to remain true to its beliefs.
The increasingly polarized gulf separating the secular state on one hand and religious charitable institutions on the other has encompassed several states and bled over into the presidential campaign. In a debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, earlier this month, Newt Gingrich asked, “Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples – which is exactly what the state has done?”
LaBarbera, who lives in Illinois, credits the Roman Catholic institutions that refused to go along with a state law that violates something as fundamental as the composition of the family unit – but he does not see the pressure ending anytime soon. “We’ve seen even a reluctance among some Christian leaders to speak out and say how wrong it is that religious organizations would be forced to alter their moral views,” LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews. “Not only has [the law] been used to push homosexual adoption, it has also used to repress the freedom of Christians who disagree with homosexuality.”
Fr. John T. Myler, a spokesman from the Diocese of Belleville, was not immediately available for comment.