Mirroring scenarios being played out in multiple states, the application of a new Illinois law denies Christian foster agencies the right to make child placement decisions as they have in the past. Previously, Christian agencies that desired to place children only with married couples were free to refer unmarried or gay couples to other agencies. The new law bans this freedom-of-conscious practice for any agency that has a contract with the state. At least one agency—the Catholic Diocese of Rockford—has felt forced by the law to choose between its religious convictions and continuing services it has provided for years. The Diocese currently serves about 2,300 of the 15,000 children in the foster-care system.
The most chilling aspect of this new law is that the state appears so ready to trample the religious liberty of quality Christian organizations. It is a denial of the very tolerance the new law purports to advance. True tolerance would allow pluralism and diversity, enabling religious organizations to remain consistent with their religious conviction.
The Miami Herald reports on this issue in an article published today. A recent op-ed by Tricia Fox, CEO of Catholic Charities of Peoria, argues that exemption should be to protect the free exercise of religious conviction in “Civil Unions and Faith-Based Agency Rights Can Co-exist,”
The current newsletter of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance—which provides tremendous thought leadership in identifying and countering threats to religious liberty—offers a further window into similar efforts taking root around the country and in Congress.