SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, July 13, 2011 ( – An Illinois judge has blocked the state’s attempt to end its contracts with Catholic Charities after they refused an order to participate in same-sex adoptions and foster care placements.  The move would have affected nearly 2,000 foster children.

“We’re not going to be removing children from homes,” said Judge John Schmidt of the Sangamon County Circuit Court, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I can’t be any clearer.”

Judge Schmidt ruled that the state’s contracts with Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield, which ran out June 30th, will continue until a full hearing on August 17th.

On Friday, the state’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) informed the agencies that the state would not accept their contracts for fiscal year 2012 because they had “made it clear” that they would not comply with the new Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which took effect June 1st.

The bill’s promoters had actively campaigned to dispel the “myth” that it would affect faith-based adoption agencies.  But an amendment to specifically protect faith-based agencies proposed by the Act’s sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, who became alarmed after the Act was used to target such agencies, failed in April.

During the hearing, Judge Schmidt said the DCFS’ Friday letter had the “appearance of gamesmanship.”

“This is a great win for the 2,000 children under the care of Catholic Charities, protecting these kids from the grave disruption that the state’s reckless decision to terminate would have caused,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society, who are representing Catholic Charities.

“We will continue this fight until all young people in need now and in the future are guaranteed their right to receive the high-quality foster and adoption care that the Catholic Church has provided for over a century to Illinois children.”

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria said he was “encouraged by the judge’s recognition today of the grave harm that would result if Catholic Charities was forced out of its long-standing mission of serving children in foster care and adoption.”

“We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law,” he added.  “Our focus has always been on living the Gospel mission by serving and protecting vulnerable children throughout our communities, and we will continue our faithful mission building a future filled with hope.”