Rockford Catholic Charities has announced it will discontinue state-funded adoption and foster care services, which will displace 350 area children.
This comes just days before the state’s first Civil Union licenses will be made available, and after multiple attempts were made in the General Assembly to ensure Catholic Charities' right to effectively discriminate against a prospective parent on the account of their own religious beliefs. The Civil Unions bill passed last year does not specify adoption rights.
First there was SB 1993, a bill that
would have allowed “faith-based policies or practices” for religious
institutions providing adoption services. It was struck down in the
Senate Human Services Committee in March. Then in April, there
was SB 1123, a bill mostly about county clerks charges (including fees
for civil union filings) that included a 30-page amendment that allowed
“bona fide” religious organizations to decline adoption or foster care
applications filled out by people in civil unions if “that application would
constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious
beliefs.” At the time, a major ruckus was made about bill sponsor state
Sen. David Koehler (D-Pekin), who was also a major champion for the
Civil Unions law. Koehler defended supporting both sides of the coin by
calling it a “compromise.”
As for Rockford Catholic Charities, the non-profit said it made the decision to avoid getting sued for discrimination against openly gay parents. The group works with 11 counties in northern Illinois and holds a $7.5 million state budget. A total of 58 employees are expected to lose their jobs as the adoption and foster care services are phased out. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has said it will transition the children into other private agencies with state contracts. It is unclear if the Catholic Charities organizations in Peoria, Joliet, Springfield or Belleville will follow Rockford’s lead, but the head of Peoria’s nonprofit earlier this month said, "The Catholic Church is not going to be OK with Catholic Charities processing applications from anyone in a civil union."