Government Violations of Religious Freedom

American Papist today reports on a ruling in the UK that a policy by the Catholic Church to place children for adoption in only heterosexual families breaches anti-discrimination legislation.  Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports:

The Tribunal’s ruling leaves leading charity Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) facing a deep religious impasse and creates a fundamental conflict between the tenets of the Catholic Church and the law of the land.

If the charity now sticks to Church policy and continues to follow its “heterosexuals only” policy it could lose its charity status and public funding. It might also face discrimination claims by same-sex couples it has turned away in the past.

As American Papist notes, “Catholic Charities is faced with the option of getting out of the adoption business … or compromising its principles. That’s a choice a Church charity shouldn’t have to make.”

This isn’t a case of whether you think gay adoption is a good thing or not – I think there are very strong arguments that can be made to say placing a child with a loving gay couple is preferable to them languishing as a ward of the state. This is an issue of using the power of the state to force people to violate fundamental tenants of faith.

Also today, the Catholic Key Blog notes how “Early March 2006, Boston Catholic Charities’ decided to end its adoption program rather than comply with a state law requiring them to place children with same-sex couples. Catholic Charities Boston said they, “cannot reconcile the teaching of the church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the commonwealth,” and so bowed out of service as one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies.”

Read the blog for the full background, but it was revealed at the time that Catholic Charities of San Francisco had also placed children in same-sex homes while the Archdiocese was under the direction of then-Archbishop William J. Levada. Cardinal Levada issued a statement from Rome  “should not place children for adoption in homosexual households.” Almost immediately, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning Levada’s words.

This resolution read:

Resolution urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

WHEREAS, It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City’s existing and established customs and traditions such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need; and

WHEREAS, The statement of Cardinal Levada and the Vatican that “Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households,” and “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children” are absolutely unacceptable to the citizenry of San Francisco; and

WHEREAS, Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors; and

WHEREAS, Same-sex couples are just as qualified to be parents as are heterosexual couples; and

WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors urges Archbishop Niederauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith [sic] at the Vatican (formerly known as Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.”

The blog continues to note that “The Board of Supervisors had no direct leverage here because The City did not fund Catholic Charities’ adoption program and there was no state law, as in Massachusetts, requiring non-discrimination against same-sex couples in adoption placement.The City did however fund other programs of Catholic Charities and during debate on the resolution, Supervisors made it clear that non-compliance with the City’s demands would place those other programs in jeopardy.”

Such language can only be mind-boggling to anyone who believes in the separation of Church and State. For San Fransisco city authorities to be condemning people for their religious beliefs – irrespective of whether you agree with them or not – would seem an affront to the very notions upon which our society is currently built. For them to use money as leverage as they did can only be considered morally reprehensible. Having said that, however, this is the problem when Churches makes a Faustian pact with governments and accept taxpayer funds: if you accept taxpayer funds from the government, the government has the right to set conditions and dictate your behaviour. This, however, in no way a defense to this deeply inappropriate resolution.

In any event, this was taken to Court, and yesterday the 9th circuit ruled

“San Francisco didn’t cross into constitutionally forbidden territory of government hostility to religion when the Board of Supervisors denounced a Vatican order to Catholic Charities not to place adoptive children with same-sex couples, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. . . It said the supervisors had acted for a legal secular purpose – to protect gay and lesbian couples from discrimination – and not to express the city’s disapproval of Catholicism... Promoting equal treatment for those couples in adoptions isn’t anti-religious, he said, “regardless of whether the Catholic Church may be opposed to it as a religious tenet.”

The blog concludes “Binding regulation or not, the message from the City was clear and Catholic Charities of San Francisco is no longer in the adoption business.”

Think such religious persecution won’t happen in Australia? I wouldn’t be too sure. We already had Catch the Fire Ministries pastors escaping criminal charges through the narrowest of margins for allegedly vilifying Islam. Such things however are just the tip of the iceberg of what is to come.

For instance, former Sex-Discrimination commissioner Pru Goward MP, Shadow Minister for Women has publicly called for churches should no longer be exempt from the Sex Discrimination Act.There is no doubt the intention of this would be to force female ordination upon churches. In fact, Ms. Goward actually stated that it “was not just the issue of female priests that was a problem”, and proceeded to list other areas in which she believed churches should be subjected to the state).

It is for this reason that all believers in the separation of church and state must do everything in their power to fight the proposed Charter of Rights that Kevin Rudd is proposing to introduce. When we can not even  rely on allegedly conservative politicians to protect freedom, it is up to us to take action.

The Menzies Research Center has just launched a book containing a series of essays on dangers of the proposed Charter of Rights. You can order the book here.


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7 Responses to “Government Violations of Religious Freedom”

  1. Glynn Says:

    i support the right of gay-couples to adopt children, however, these charities reserve the right, as private institutions, to set whatever rules they feel necessary with regards to the placing of children with families. So long as these rules and guidelines do not result in harm coming to the child, it’s nobody’s business.

  2. Bee Says:

    Hear, hear Tim.

    That comment by Pru disgusts me – I do not support female ordination, it is contrary to my faith as a Catholic to accept women as priests. To think that statement came from a so-called Liberal politician!

    The state should not have the right to infringe upon what has been a practice of the Church since its inception. A lot of atheists whine about how persecuted they are and how we should get religion out of the public square – but the separation of church and state works both ways.

  3. Manny Says:

    You can lodge your objection to a Charter/Bill of Rights in Australia here:

  4. TerjeP (say tay-a) Says:

    Would orphans be better off if the Catholic Church got out of the orphanage business? I don’t think so.

  5. firingsquid Says:

    The UK is becoming the laughing stock of the planet with regards to government interference in the daily lives of its people. The forces of secularism and atheism are so strong now that even charities quietly going about their business as they always have are being threatened with closure.

    Separation of Church and State is not supposed to be part of British social thinking, since there is a State Church (Anglicanism). That such Americanisms are gaining such an upper hand is a sign of the times for the UK.

    Will the Catholic Church show any signs of resistance?

  6. The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC Says:

    […] The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC 100% Legit & Fully Authorized! « Government Violations of Religious Freedom […]

  7. Jake the Muss Says:

    Tim, is the threat merely to remove their charitable status or to remove their capacity to act as an adoption agency?

    Subquestion, who do you believe should be able to act as an adoption agency, and under what grounds?

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