The state of Michigan has agreed to settle a religious freedom discrimination lawsuit brought by Catholic Charities West Michigan in 2019 over the state’s attempt to force it to place children with same-sex couples, contrary to the agency’s religious beliefs about marriage and the need of children for a married mom and dad.
As part of the settlement, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will allow the agency to continue placing children only with a married mom and dad, and the department has agreed to pay Catholic Charities $250,000 to cover its attorneys’ fees spent in the case.
This is now the second case this year to be settled in favor of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies in Michigan, following a settlement between the state and St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Buck v. Gordon.
Both settlements can be attributed to last year’s unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fulton v. Philadelphia, which upheld the right of a Philadelphia Catholic foster care agency to be free from the city’s religious discrimination for choosing to place children only with a married mom and dad.
Catholic Charities West Michigan is represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). They praised the settlement and resolution of the religious freedom issues involved.
“More adoption and foster care providers mean more children have the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus in a press release. “Catholic Charities West Michigan meets a critical need as one of the region’s largest social service providers, reuniting children with their birth parents and placing foster kids in loving homes. We are pleased Catholic Charities can continue its vital mission serving vulnerable families in Michigan without being punished by the government simply because it’s operating according to its religious beliefs—the very reason the ministry exists in the first place.”
The unanimous 2021 Fulton decision by the Supreme Court sent a clear message to the lower courts dealing with government hostility toward faith-based organizations chafing under local laws that impose LGBT non-discrimination requirements on them.
As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in Fulton:
“[Catholic Social Services] seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else. The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”
The message from the high court has definitely been received in Michigan.
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