Friday, August 12, 2022

PCC Commentary: State’s Adoption Law Smacks in Face of Religious Freedom

On Dec. 15, 1791, 39 U.S. delegates signed the Bill of Rights, which was written by future President James Madison. The First Amendment to the relatively new U.S. Constitution was this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment prohibits laws establishing a national religion or impeding the free exercise of religion for its citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union says this means the government can’t penalize someone because of their religious beliefs.
Over the last couple of years, however, the Wolf Administration has done exactly this in what we see as obvious defiance of freedom of religion.
There is a concerted effort by the Wolf Administration to overrule Catholic beliefs in the placing of children through adoption. The restrictions imposed by the governor and his administration have crippled the ability of Catholic adoption agencies to do their work.
Pennsylvania requires adoption agencies to place children with same-sex parents in order to receive funding. These agencies are part of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network, also known as SWAN. The requirement by Governor Wolf would be in direct contrast with the long-standing Catholic belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. It is that parental combination, Catholics believe, that is the best way to raise a child.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference appealed to the Wolf Administration for a religious exemption. It was denied in 2018, causing most adoption efforts by Catholic organizations in Pennsylvania to grind to a halt. Similar regulations have been shutting down Catholic adoption agencies across the United States ever since Boston Catholic Charities did so in 2006.
The efforts by the PCC to remove this burden continued on both the state and federal level. The PCC sent an appeal to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) in Washington to grant a religious exemption. The PCC worked closely with U.S. Congressman Mike Kelly on getting federal relief. A number of state senators and representatives sent a letter to President Trump and to DHS asking for relief.
There is a continuing court case that began in Pennsylvania that may provide some relief for Catholic adoption agencies. Just over two years ago, the city of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 foster families to help try to find homes for at least some of the 6,000 children in Philadelphia’s foster care system. But city officials barred Catholic Social Services from placing children in homes.
What purpose does this serve? Thousands of children in search of homes are being kept “in the system” so bureaucrats can use them to further their political agendas. For them, it is not about the kids. It’s about the ideology.
Even if this case is settled in our favor, it may be much too late. Sadly, many Catholic adoption agencies have shut down while waiting for a reversal from the government. In the meantime, many concerned employees have sought and found other jobs.
The Adoption Network Law Center writes that a Gallup poll from 2014 found that a majority of Americans say same-sex couples should have the legal right to adopt a child. Catholic agencies are not contesting that legal right. But why force someone to facilitate that when it goes against their beliefs? There are other agencies in Pennsylvania that already specialize in same-sex adoptions/foster care.
The answer is clear: once again, it’s about principle for many of those in power. It’s not enough for us to respect their beliefs in a “agree to disagree” mindset. No, we must actually validate and live their beliefs at the expense of our own.
By Al Gnoza, The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

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