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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, June 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Leaders of three Catholic dioceses—the Dioceses of Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet in Illinois—took legal action today as their charities fight to continue their work in serving the best interests of thousands of needy children and families throughout the state.

In March of this year, the Attorney General’s office issued a letter stating that the office “received notice that Catholic Charities … discriminates against Illinois citizens based on race, marital status and sexual orientation” in the provision of foster care and adoption services and demanded that Catholic Charities turn over a wide range of documents in response. The June 1 law authorizing civil unions in Illinois has raised further questions and criticism about Catholic Charities’ longstanding position not to place children for adoption and foster care with non-married couples who live together—regardless of sexual orientation.

This lawsuit, filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court, seeks a declaration that the charities are in full compliance with Illinois law in their current practices and an injunction against further action by Illinois government officials to the contrary. The charities argue both that the Illinois Human Rights Act exempts religious adoption agencies from the provisions relied upon by the Attorney General’s office and that the new Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act includes an express protection for the religious freedom of entities like Catholic Charities.

The charities ask the court to declare that they are legally justified to continue their current practices of working only with married couples and single, non-cohabiting individuals. Civil union couples are free to choose among dozens of other organizations for these services.

“Child welfare advocates know it is in the best interest of Illinois children for Catholic Charities to stay in this business,” said Steven Roach, Executive Director for Catholic Charities in the Springfield Diocese. “It’s tragic that there are people who believe unnecessarily disrupting the lives of thousands of vulnerable children is an acceptable outcome in this situation.”

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. Charities’ leaders are extremely concerned what will happen with those children and families if they are forced out of this work.

“Religious and faith-based entities need not check their beliefs at the door when providing vital social services for the benefit of needy and vulnerable children and families in Illinois. Catholic Charities has a clear right under Illinois law to pursue its charitable good works in the true spirit of the Gospels and the Sermon on the Mount, faithful to the essential tenets of its Catholic faith. We will advocate strongly to protect Catholic Charities’ continuing its mission of social service,” said Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society, which is representing the charities in the lawsuit.

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