Law & the Courts

Michigan Tolerates Faith-Based Adoption Agencies, the ACLU Sues

A United Methodist Church, July 19, 2017. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
The end game is to rid the public sector of religious organizations unless they capitulate to the LGBT agenda.

Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal court against the State of Michigan on behalf of two homosexual couples, challenging Michigan’s law that allows child-placement agencies to offer foster and adoption services consistent with the organizations’ deeply held religious beliefs.

In Dumont v. Lyon, the ACLU cites Michigan’s “practice of allowing state-contracted, taxpayer-funded child placing agencies to disqualify prospective families headed by same-sex couples based on agencies’ religious beliefs.” That violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the ACLU contends.

Conversely, in codifying the legislation in 2015, the state explained that the intent of the legislature was “to protect child placing agencies’ free exercise of religion protected by the United States constitution and the state constitution of 1963.”

In addition to Michigan, six other states (Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia), have laws protecting religious organizations that provide foster and adoption services from being forced to violate their deeply held beliefs by placing children in single-parent, same-sex, or transgender households.

The ACLU’s lawsuit against Michigan, however, is the first to challenge the constitutionality of religious exemptions provided to faith-based foster and adoption social-service agencies. But the litigation against the Wolverine state appears to be but an opening salvo in the continuing cultural wars, with lawsuits likely to follow in other states. This litigation, as the ACLU puts it, seeks to “send a message to state legislatures that the Constitution does not permit these kinds of laws.”

While the legal dispute plays out in the courtroom, the ACLU and likeminded organizations are advancing on a second front — in the court of public opinion. In fact, one LGBT think tank released a new television ad, entitled “Kids Pay the Price,” to coincide with the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Michigan’s law. The ad, as its creator Movement Advancement Project framed it, “depicts the kinds of harms children can face when adoption agencies and workers are exempted from following key child welfare laws based on individual beliefs.”

If the ACLU prevails in its litigation, fewer children will find loving families, because the most experienced and qualified agencies will be forced out of child-placement services.

In selling its litigation, the ACLU is also parroting the same “it’s for the kids” theme. Here’s Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan: “There are 13,000 children in Michigan’s child welfare system. Allowing agencies to turn away loving, qualified families based on religious criteria creates fewer families for children, reducing their chances of being placed in a suitable family, or any family at all.”

But the children are merely a shield behind which the ACLU and other activists seek to advance their true objective — destroying religious freedom in the public sphere when it conflicts with the LGBT agenda. Here’s ACLU senior staff member Leslie Cooper discussing the underlying principle pushing the Michigan litigation: “Government services must not be provided based on religious standards and taxpayer money must not be used to fund agencies that discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation.”

It’s not about the children. It’s never about the children. And if the ACLU prevails in its litigation, fewer children will find loving families, because the most experienced and qualified agencies will be forced out of child-placement services. We saw this in 2006 when Catholic Charities, one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies, closed its doors in Boston rather than violate its conscience. Since then, agencies in San Francisco and Washington D.C. and, statewide, in Illinois have been forced to shutter their child-placement services as well.

That’s the end game for the ACLU: Rid the public sector of religious organizations unless they capitulate to the LGBT agenda. But when you force faith-based organizations out, as one Boston-area adoption consultant and lobbyist lamented, “ultimately, the only losers are the kids.” And religious liberty.


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Margot Cleveland is a lawyer, CPA, stay-at-home mom, and former full-time faculty member and current adjunct professor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.

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