Chris Lange, FISM News
The State of Michigan has agreed to pay a Catholic adoption and foster care ministry $250,000 in legal fees for trying to force the nonprofit to place children in LGBTQ homes in violation of the group’s First Amendment privileges.
Catholic Charities West Michigan will remain open after a settlement was reached requiring state officials to pay the nonprofit’s legal fees and other costs associated with the case as part of a stipulated court order and judgment approved in federal court Monday.
The suit centered around the nonprofit agency’s prioritization of married mothers and fathers in its placement of children awaiting adoption or foster care. Michigan officials in 2019 attempted to force the group to abandon its firmly-held beliefs upholding the biblical definitions of gender and marriage by presenting the charity with an ultimatum to either shut down the ministry or change its policy to allow children to be placed with LGBTQ individuals and/or same-sex couples.
In response, Catholic Charities filed a lawsuit with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) arguing that the state is barred from taking adverse actions against a nonprofit for policies shaped by religious beliefs.
Founded in 1947, Catholic Charities West Michigan affirms the biblical construct of marriage as being “the sacramental union of one man and one woman,” according to the lawsuit.
“More adoption and foster care providers mean more children have the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family,” ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said in a press release announcing the court’s decision.
“Catholic Charities West Michigan meets a critical need as one of the region’s largest social service providers, reuniting children with their birth parents and placing foster kids in loving homes,” he continued. “We are pleased Catholic Charities can continue its vital mission serving vulnerable families in Michigan without being punished by the government simply because it’s operating according to its religious beliefs — the very reason the ministry exists in the first place.”
The western Michigan nonprofit has placed around 4,500 children with families and serves over 30,000 people annually, according to the ADF.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2021 ruled unanimously (9-0) that the City of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment when it tried forcing a Catholic foster care agency to place children in same-sex homes. It was this decision that prompted Michigan officials to concede that they were unlikely to prevail in the Catholic Charities suit and agree to the settlement.
Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services referenced both cases in an announcement made earlier this month. It had formed a new task force “to support LGBTQ+ families who want to adopt or foster children.”
“Although the outcome in these court cases is not what we hoped for, we are committed to providing support to the many members in the LGBTQ+ community who foster and adopt,” Children’s Services Agency Executive Director Demetrius Starling said in the release.