Catholic Charities v. Illinois

Catholic Charities and the best interests of the foster child

By Mark Silk in Spiritual Politics

Judge John Schmidt didn’t have to ponder very hard to decide that the state of Illinois is within its rights to terminate its orphan and foster care contracts with Catholic Charities in Southern Illinois. As he wrote, “The fact that [Catholic Charities] have contracted with the state to provide foster care and adoption services for over forty years does not vest [them] with a protected property interest. No citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government.”

Nor should the fact that a religious organization has a free exercise right to behave according to its own standards of morality (up to a point) make it eligible for a state contract if those standards conflict with the state’s rules for equal treatment. Who would object to the state declining to contract for foster care services with a religious body that refused to put children of one race under the care of parents of another? The state of Illinois now recognizes same-sex civil unions as partnerships with the same legal rights as married couples. It is only fair that it should restrict public funding of child-care services to agencies that recognize them too.

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