Here’s a prayer that the Catholic version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” reveals itself to the Kansas Legislature.
State lawmakers are currently considering the Adoption Protection Act, which would ensure that faith-based child placement agencies could gain state contracts even if they deny otherwise qualified adoptive parents to a placement that would violate that agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Catholics who oppose this kind of overt discrimination need to rise up and show themselves. They are plentiful, and their voices are needed to defeat a bill seeking to use the faith as an anti-gay stronghold.
Backers of the measure are correct to point out that Catholic doctrine discusses homosexuality as an “an intrinsic moral evil” and that similar legislation elsewhere is supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But Catholics, far more than many other faiths and the general population, are generally more supportive of LGBT people’s right to marry, raise children and adopt. Multiple public opinion surveys bear this out.
There’s a reason so many Catholics rejoiced in 2013 when Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
The pope simply articulated what many believe.
It’s entirely fair for a religious organization to conduct its affairs in accordance with its own moral values. It is not fair to ask taxpayers to subsidize behavior that runs counter to the public interest and violates the rights of certain members of society on the basis of religious morals.
It’s important to point out that the adoption services of Catholic Charities in the southwest portion of Kansas report that the organization uses fees and donations, not state funds, to manage its adoptions. Fair enough. But then why do Kansas’ Catholic bishops believe we need this unnecessary and potentially discriminatory remedy for a non-issue?
The claim is that faith-based agencies need this protection to set up shop in Kansas. It’s based on a Virginia law.
But why do we need new agencies to set up shop? A curious legislator’s efforts to find out exactly which faith-based organizations are eager to set up adoption services in the state have not turned up any answers.
Moreover, as adoption advocates stress, it’s not that there aren’t enough adoption agencies in Kansas. It’s that there aren’t enough families willing to adopt.
Less than a quarter of children needing adoptive homes in America find their “forever families” each year. In Kansas, the rolls are bursting with increasing numbers of children in state care — more than 7,500 at last count.
Reducing the pool of potential adoptive parents by excluding gay and lesbian people from publicly funded adoptions won’t solve the lack of homes.
This bill highlights a continuing national dialogue. Faith-based agencies have long served many public needs. Catholic Charities is a prime example. It’s a stellar organization, in Kansas and nationwide.
But as society’s understanding and acceptance grow around issues of sexual orientation, religious-based groups will have to choose to shift their policies or expect to forgo state funding.
What if the issue was an interracial couple who was denied an adoption by a religious group because a leader found a biblical passage that seemed to imply this was God’s will? Few today would argue that such an agency should be able to discriminate based on race — with or even without taxpayer subsidy.
God often works in mysterious ways. This gambit by Kansas’ bishops may end up challenging Catholic minds, hearts and spirits in ways they didn’t anticipate. We can only hope.