by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — Could faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in Kansas be forced to choose between either shutting down or violating their faith and conscience?
According to the Catholic bishops of Kansas, the answer is “yes.” And it’s only a matter of time before activist groups force Catholic agencies to make this lose-lose choice.
That is why Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the other bishops of Kansas are taking the proactive step of launching the Protect Adoption Choice campaign.
The campaign seeks to mobilize Catholics to support bills now before the Kansas Legislature that would protect the conscience rights of faith-based organizations.
The religious liberties of Christians and the fates of children in desperate need hang in the balance.
A long history
The Catholic Church has a long history of working with secular government to aid children.
“Since the founding of this nation, the Catholic Church has been an active partner with state authorities in placing children conceived into difficult situations into loving homes with a mother and a father,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in a Feb. 23 letter to all pastors.
“The church and other faith-based groups,” the letter continued, “because of their pastoral relationship with the people they serve, are able to place kids that often no one else can.
“In Kansas, faith-based adoption agencies have been giving hard-to-place children forever homes for over 60 years. Sadly, in other states we have seen the church forced out of this adoption ministry because of our deeply held respect for the inherent rights of a child to have both a mother and a father.”
In his letter, Archbishop Naumann asked pastors to play a DVD about Protect Adoption Choice for parishioners, and urged them to visit the campaign website.
Increasingly, Catholic Charities and other non-Catholic faith-based agencies have come under attack by activists through the courts.
After Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., was unable to get an exemption from Massachusetts’ nondiscrimination law in 2006, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston was forced to end its 100-year old adoption ministry.
Agencies in San Francisco, Illinois and Washington, D.C., were also forced to shut down their adoption ministries in subsequent years.
More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union initiated a lawsuit last September against St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Michigan. The ACLU seeks to make it illegal for the state of Michigan to work with faith-based agencies that operate according to their faith.
“We do not want this to ever happen in Kansas,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. “Interest groups hostile to faith-based adoption services want to close faith-based adoption providers whose religious beliefs they don’t like. They want to do this in all 50 states.”
“It is only a matter of time [before they do so] unless states act to protect faith-based adoption providers,” he concluded. “Seven states have already done this and at least three more are considering such laws this year.”
The Adoption Protection Act
Two identical bills that would enact the Adoption Protection Act were introduced into the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate in early February: House Bill 2687 and Senate Bill 401.
Both bills are currently before the Federal and State Affairs committees of the two chambers. So far, no hearings have been held regarding the bills.
According to the fiscal note for HB 2687, the bill would “exempt child placement agencies (CPAs) from being involved with the placement of a child if the placement would violate the CPAs’ sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Further, faith-based child placement agencies could not be denied a license, permit, authorization or renewal because of a refusal to place children. The CPAs could not be denied grants and contracts, or be subject to fines or administrative actions or claims because of a refusal to place a child based on the CPA’s faith.
Currently, faith-based adoption agencies are free to operate according to their religious beliefs, said Schuttloffel. The Adoption Protection Act ensures the current situation will remain the same.
Similar laws have been passed in other states. These include Virginia (the model for the Kansas bills), Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.
Rhode Island and Mississippi also have protections for faith-based adoption providers, and another bill is working its way through the Georgia Legislature.
“The results have been positive,” said Schuttloffel. “Just last year in Virginia, the governor issued an executive order limiting state contracts with entities that did not share his personal views on marriage, family and sexuality. Because the Virginia Legislature had acted years ago to protect faith-based adoption providers, they were protected from the executive order and remain free to serve in Virginia.”
The Catholic bishops of Kansas strongly support HB 2687, but non-Catholic entities — including the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas and the Kansas Chapter of Concerned Women for America — support it as well.
“The ACLU and Equality Kansas oppose the bill,” said Schuttloffel.
But the bill seeks only to protect the rights of faith-based child protection agencies as well as all those wishing to adopt.
“The bill does not prevent anyone from adopting,” said Schuttloffel. “It just protects groups like Catholic Charities who operate according to religious principles. Same-sex couples continue to adopt in all the states that have passed laws like this.”
The time to act is now
Catholics need to get involved in the Protect Adoption Choice campaign now because the regular session of the Kansas Legislature ends on April 6.
“There is a veto session in May where some work can possibly be done, but time is of the essence,” said Schuttloffel.
The danger is so clear, and the time so short, that Archbishop Naumann encourages Catholics to contact their state representatives and senators in support of the two bills as soon as possible.
“It is urgent that we act now because political and legal activist groups hostile to faith-based providers are becoming increasingly active on this issue,” said the archbishop.
The Protect Adoption Choice video can be viewed on the website.
Persons can also use the site to contact legislators in support of HB 2687 and SB 401.
Go to its home page and click on “Information” at the top of the page. Scroll down to the bottom of the “About This Initiative” page. Click on the yellow box that says “Take Action to Protect Adoption Choice.” This will take you to a form “Support HB 2687 & SB 401 – Protect Adoption Choice.”