Monday, 28 May 2018

Unintended Consequences

The Religious Wars of the 21st Century

When homosexuality or polygamy or trans-genderism or abortion become recognised as human rights, Christians and the Christian faith are immediately in the crosshairs.  Why?  Because Christian conscience and praxis deny these activities are human rights.  

John Davidson describes how this is unfolding in some states in the increasingly Disunited States.
Ever since the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, we’ve been seeing myriad broader implications from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell. From wedding cake bakers to event planners, if you dissented from the new regime you could have your livelihood taken from you. Now, the inexorable logic of Obergefell is bearing down on religious organizations that do social welfare work, as conservatives predicted.

Last week, a group of foster families in Philadelphia asked a federal court to end a new municipal policy that prevents Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes.
Catholic Social Services is one of the largest and highest-rated foster agencies in Philadelphia, but because it adheres to Catholic teaching on homosexuality and does not place foster children in same-sex households, the City of Philadelphia is cutting them off.

City officials are doing this despite a massive shortage of foster families in Philadelphia. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the foster families, issued this summary of the case last week:
Philadelphia will terminate its contract with Catholic Social Services at the end of June unless the agency abandons the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. Never mind that no same-sex couple has ever complained about Catholic Social Services, or that the agency refers couples with whom it cannot work to one of 26 other agencies in the region.
Never mind that Sharonell Fulton, a plaintiff in the case and a foster parent who has cared for more than 40 children over 25 years (including the two special-needs siblings currently in her care), depends on Catholic Social Services and says she cannot continue fostering children without the agency’s help.

Never mind that Philadelphia isn’t alone in its foster care crisis, that foster families are in short supply across the United States. In just the past few weeks, local news outlets have chronicled foster family shortages in Missouri, Colorado, Texas, Indiana, Washington, and Illinois. In Michigan alone, more than 13,000 kids are waiting for placement in foster homes.

Never mind all that. The only thing that matters to municipal officials in Philadelphia is that Catholic Social Services must bend the knee and abandon its deeply held religious beliefs. If orphans and abused children must go without foster homes to make a point, so be it.
In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 new foster families. Despite the desperate need for homes for the 6,000 children in Philadelphia’s foster care system, the City then abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the most successful foster agencies in the city, from placing any children. The City’s actions mean that foster homes are sitting empty and loving foster parents are unable to serve at-risk children, simply because the City disagrees with Catholic Social Services’ longstanding beliefs about marriage.
Some states have moved to protect the beliefs and consciences of Christians involved in charitable work involving families and children.  They have legislated a carve-out for conscience sake.
(S)ome states have realized they must pass laws that specifically allow religiously affiliated child welfare agencies to conduct placements based on their religious beliefs. Early this month, Oklahoma became the eighth state to allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to cite religious beliefs when making placements for foster care or adoption. Last year, Texas, South Dakota, and Alabama passed similar laws.

Challenges to such laws are underway, and it’s not clear they will withstand legal scrutiny in a post-Obergefell world. In 2016, a federal judge ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples adopting children is unconstitutional, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause—more or less the same argument that proved successful in Obergefell. 
There is deep irony at work in all this mess.  The US Civil War was fought over the issue of States' Rights--in particular, with respect to slavery.  One interpretation of the outcome of that war is that the United States determined that states' rights are not ultimately sovereign.  The Federal Government is.  Now the US Supreme Court is claiming an even higher authority over states and Congress when it comes to sexual morality.

On the other hand, the doctrine of states' rights is making a bit of a comeback on the Left.  California wants to split into three states--claiming states' rights as a warrant.  It also wants to ignore Federal immigration law and open its borders without restraint to immigrants.

Will the Union survive?  It is less and less an academic question.

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