LANSING, Michigan, March 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced that taxpayer-funded adoption agencies with religious objections to placing children in homes of homosexual “married” couples will no longer be able to cite their faith as a legitimate reason to opt out of providing that service. The move has the effect of forcing religious adoption agencies to violate their consciences if they want state money.
In a statement released Friday, Nessel, a liberal Democrat and a lesbian, declared that “discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale.”
Nessel’s unilateral decision, which will likely bring to an end Christian adoption services in Michigan, serves as the settlement reached between the State of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the state in 2017 on behalf of a lesbian couple who wanted to adopt but were turned away from St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services, two of the state’s best known Christian adoption agencies.
In 2017, Bethany Christian Services, which has been operating in Michigan since 1944, helped 1,761 foster children and facilitated 493 foster care adoptions.
Legally speaking, Nessel’s decision voids a package of bills signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Snyder in 2015 that carved out religious exemptions for faith-based organizations, though the Michigan Catholic Conference — the policy voice for the Catholic Church in the state’s capitol — tweeted that it is “highly unlikely” that Nessel’s decision will be “the last chapter of the story,” implying further legal challenges are coming.
Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services places the state’s approximately 13,000 foster care children into homes with the help of private organizations. At present, Michigan has 105 licensed adoption and foster care agencies, 25 percent of which are religious-based. According to the Associated Press, Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services have accounted for about 12 percent of the state’s foster care adoptions since 2015.
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, excoriated Nessel’s decision. “Nessel’s actions make it clear that she sought the office of attorney general to further her own personal political agenda,” he said in a statement. “The legislature wrote and passed a law regarding adoption practices in Michigan to both protect religious freedom and guard against discrimination.”
Michigan State Senator Peter MacGregor, also a Republican, echoed Shirkey’s concerns, telling LifeSiteNews in an email that Nessel’s decision is “a huge blow to the state’s foster children and will hamper the goal of finding a home for every child that lacks one.”
Nessel, 49, was elected attorney general in January 2019, making her the first openly gay woman to be elected statewide. Jewish and “married” to a woman, she has two sons, as well as a long track record of liberal activism. She was part of the legal team that overturned Michigan’s ban on same-sex “marriage,” which later resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court redefining marriage altogether. In 2016, she founded a pro-“LGBT” nonprofit called Fair Michigan. In January of 2019, she came out in support of a lawsuit seeking to reinstate the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. And earlier this month, Nessel announced she is going to investigate the Michigan-based website Church Militant because the Southern Poverty Law Center considers it “anti-LGBT.”
A spokesperson for Bethany Christian Services says they are “currently reviewing the announced settlement” while continuing to focus on serving children. The D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents St. Vincent Catholic Charities, issued a statement describing the settlement as a violation of state law, adding that Nessel and the ACLU are “trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies.”
Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, a non-profit that fights bias, accused Nessel of being an “ideological extremist” who has “contempt” for not only religious freedom, but also “the democratic process” and the children served by faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan.
Forcing faith-based taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to provide same-sex couples with children in the name of “nondiscrimination” has long been part of the “LGBT” agenda. Catholic Charities in Buffalo; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and San Francisco, as well as Illinois, have all shut down due to the passage of such laws. In August 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant relief to Catholic Social Services, which was challenging a Philadelphia policy that required the agency to place children into “LGBT” homes. In New York, attorneys are fighting to keep the state from closing a faith-based adoption agency.