SPRINGFIELD, IL, August 3, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Monday, Sangamon County Judge John Schmidt agreed to let the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) join the state’s battle against a lawsuit filed by four Catholic Charities agencies. Catholic Charities in Joliet, Peoria, Springfield, and Belleville filed the lawsuit against the state this summer, asking the court to declare that their policy of not recruiting unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, for foster care was within the law.
Last month, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) chose not to renew the four Catholic Charities agencies’ longstanding adoption and foster care contracts. “The Catholic agencies,” the Peoria Journal Star Newspaper explained, “want to be exempted on religious grounds from complying with Illinois’ new civil unions law, which requires them to offer state-funded foster care and adoption services to non-married and/or same-sex couples.”
While Catholic Charities “have served thousands of children and families with top-quality, nurturing care since 1921 and handle about 20 percent of the cases in Illinois,” in May, the Catholic diocese of Rockford announced the closing of its adoption agencies. The diocese handled “approximately 350 foster family and adoption cases in 11 counties in northern Illinois with a state budget of $7.5 million and 58 workers.”
In June, the Catholic dioceses of Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield sued the IDCFS when the state agency chose not to renew its contracts and last month, the diocese of Belleville joined the lawsuit. On July 12, Judge Schmidt “granted the diocese of Springfield, Joliet and Peoria a preliminary injunction, allowing the organizations to continue to operate as foster care agencies.”
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Peter Breen, Executive Director of the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, stressed the importance of this case. He explained, “Ultimately, the Catholic Charities hope to continue their ministry to the almost 2200 kids in the Charities’ care across Illinois.”
“A negative outcome here could be catastrophic to the continued viability of religious child welfare agencies whose moral traditions include upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Breen continued. “As some of the arguments in this case – particularly those advanced by the ACLU – urge that the Catholic Charities are violating the U.S. Constitution, the decision in this case may well bear persuasive weight in the courtrooms of all 50 states.”