Catholic adoption agencies in Colorado are under threat as a result of a new version of a civil unions bill that no longer protects agencies that believe children should ideally be placed with a mother and a father.
The original version of the bill said it “shall not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption” with a couple in a civil union.
However that language is absent from the 2013 bill, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports. In countries such as Britain, Catholic adoption agencies have already been forced to close because of their belief in a child’s right to a mother and father, where possible.
Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference said the change means the legislation has the potential for “serious conflict with religious liberty” regarding religious institutions involved in charitable services as well as adoption and foster care.
Mark Rohlena, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, said if the bill passes it could threaten the religious liberty of agencies like his that decline to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples.
“We feel it would be a very sad commentary if Colorado forced religious institutions or those who believe in a different framework to do something against their conscience,” he told CNA.
If Colorado law forces the Colorado Springs-based agency to violate Catholic teaching, he said, “we probably would cease the operation of our adoption programs”.
“That risk is always there,” he said. “I think that we would try to explore every avenue available to us to provide this vital service to the community.”
He said a shutdown is “very well what could happen” given precedents in other states.
When Illinois passed a civil unions bill in 2010, its backers promised that religious freedom would not be affected. However, the next year state officials used the law to end Catholic Charities agencies’ $30 million in state contracts for its work in caring for about 2,000 foster children each year. The state ruled that the agencies were discriminatory against unmarried couples and homosexual couples.
In 2010, a “gay marriage” law in the District of Columbia forced Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to end its foster care and public adoption program because the law required it to serve homosexual couples.
Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination law forced Catholic Charities of Boston to end its adoption program, one of the oldest in the country.