Last week, after nearly 95 years of providing adoption services, Catholic Charities of Buffalo announced the termination of their adoption and foster care programs because of state requirements that would have forced the charity to violate its religious convictions by placing children in homes without both a father and a mother.
The agency said their decision was guided by the Catholic Church’s historic teaching on the nature of marriage and family and acknowledged the change was prompted by a same-sex couple’s recent application to become adoptive foster parents.
In their official statement the agency explained, “As an organization sponsored by the Diocese of Buffalo, Catholic Charities cannot uphold the requirement that contracting agencies allow same-sex couples to foster and adopt children. The teaching and position of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world recognizes marriage only as a union between a woman and a man.” Noting the obvious, they add: “We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the Church.”
Tragically, Catholic Charities of Buffalo joins a growing list of faith-based adoption providers that have been forced out of business for refusing to compromise their religious convictions in order to comply with sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) “nondiscrimination” ordinances. Earlier this summer, Philadelphia discontinued their relationship with two adoption providers that could not conform to the city’s SOGI law because to do so would violate their religious convictions. In July, a federal judge sided with the city after the adoption agencies filed a motion for a temporary injunction.
Behind these developments in Buffalo and Philadelphia is a clear message to faith-based adoption-providers: unless you embrace and subscribe to the new orthodoxy on contested matters related to marriage, sexual orientation, and gender identity, you will be blacklisted, targeted, and ultimately run out of business.
In Buffalo, intolerance toward Christian beliefs was couched in the language of discrimination. A spokesperson for the New York Office of Children and Family Services said, “Discrimination of any kind is illegal and in this case (Children and Family Services) will vigorously enforce the laws designed to protect the rights of children and same sex couples.”
Thus, under the guise of combatting discrimination, the state government is trampling the religious freedom of faith-based agencies by refusing to grant an exemption or accommodation. Moreover, they are tragically putting the partisan political agenda of adult activists over the interests of children. No one is served by forcing the closure of an organization with a proven track-record of helping children. On average, Buffalo Catholic Charities arranges the adoption of five children per year and currently has 34 children in foster care. When they close, their work of placing these children with adoptive parents will stop. The situation is a lose-lose for everyone, but especially vulnerable children.
Consider these statistics: there are currently 437,465 children in foster care and 117,794 waiting to be adopted. These numbers highlight the dire need and underscore the reality that the maximum number of partnering organizations are needed to serve the needs of society’s at-risk children. However, if progressive activists have their way and continue enacting SOGI ordinances that preclude faith-based agencies from operating according to the moral teachings of their faith, hundreds of organizations will soon be forced out of the foster-care marketplace altogether. Again, the results would be devastating for at risk-kids.
In short, the development in Buffalo once again underscores the need for federal legislation such as The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) that would ensure all available agencies can continue to serve children without compromising the agency’s sincere beliefs or moral convictions.
Until legislators act, stories like these from Philadelphia and Buffalo will reoccur and children will continue to be the unfortunate casualties in an adult culture-war.
David Closson is Research Fellow for Religious Freedom and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.