The Left's War on Christian Adoption Agencies
The State of Michigan is asking a federal district court to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit seeking to shut down the State's faith-based adoption agencies. The case, Dumont v. Lyon, was brought on behalf of two same-sex couples who claim they suffered discrimination from Christian child-placement agencies who told them they didn't handle same-sex adoptions. The lawsuit demands that Michigan stop contracting with any faith-based adoption agency that "employs religious criteria" in its screening decisions – decisions, the ACLU alleges, that harm "vulnerable children by denying them access to loving families."
Significantly, the complaint fails to mention that its same-sex plaintiffs remained at all relevant times free to seek adoption services from other available agencies. In other words, no one denied access to anybody.
That detail would undermine the ACLU's intended narrative, the one attorney for the case Leslie Cooper presents in an online post as "Same-Sex Couples Are Being Turned Away from Becoming Foster and Adoptive Parents in Michigan. So We're Suing." As with the lawsuit she filed, nowhere does her post describe any same-sex couple actually being stopped from fostering or adopting. That's because not obtaining a license from a particular adoption agency doesn't stop any couple from being licensed by others.
A misleading Detroit News headline, "Same-sex couples fight to adopt in Michigan," detracts from an otherwise accurate article that fairly summarizes the Dumont facts and also happens not to mention any actual same-sex couples needing to "fight to adopt." In fact, the ACLU's own factual statement to the court relates that when one of the plaintiffs was told by Bethany Christian Services that the organization doesn't work with same-sex couples, the agency representative willingly offered her recommendations to two other agencies. The same thing happens at the other faith-based agency mentioned in the suit, St. Vincent Catholic Charities. "St. Vincent isn't trying to prevent any couple from adopting," explains attorney, Stephanie Barclay. "They are saying we cannot provide a written endorsement of your relationship that contradicts with [sic] our religious beliefs."
Further, the ACLU complaint quotes St. Vincent's director of clinical services testifying in a House hearing that "[i]f they let us know that they're unmarried, or they're gay or lesbian, we immediately recommend, make a referral to another agency."
Those facts notwithstanding, the ACLU is arguing the practice still hurts the foster-care children, who are harmed by these "[e]xclusions":
Each time a prospective parent who is able to provide a loving and caring family for a child is turned away by a child placing agency because of a religious objection to their sexual orientation (or any other religious objection), the pool of families available for the children in the child welfare system diminishes, reducing children's options for an appropriate placement, or any placement at all.
But this isn't the case. If a child placement agency declines to work with a family – for any reason, religious or secular – and then directly recommends that family to another child placement agency, the pool is going to be diminished only if that family disregards the referral, terminates its pursuit of adoption, and chooses to exclude itself.
Documents submitted by the defendants suggest that the Dumont plaintiffs themselves chose to call only two Christian agencies; identified themselves as same-sex couples; and, when they were referred elsewhere, "simply stopped."
Considering what an uphill climb the adoption process can be, this doesn't show much perseverance.
Regardless, it makes no difference to Leslie Cooper that her clients could always have gone to other agencies. "It doesn't sort of change the injury," she told Michigan Public Radio – "the harm that happens of being told your kind is unacceptable to be a parent."
Not that there's any evidence of anyone at Bethany or St. Vincent ever uttering any such words. For the ACLU, a charitable recommendation to another agency is speech pregnant with homophobic animus. As Cooper says, "[t]he message they get is your kind is unsuitable to be parents," and "[t]he stigma that follows the rejected same-sex couples is hard to bear."
So the only injuries identified in the case came when mind-reading same-sex couples "got a message" and felt a "stigma."
Dumont plaintiff Erin Busk-Sutton told the Detroit News that being referred by Bethany to two different agencies was "devastating and frustrating." According to Busk-Sutton's lawsuit, the Bethany representative had told her that "same-sex couples aren't our area of expertise" and, when Busk-Sutton persisted, added that she "didn't think they would have a good experience with [Bethany]."
Faith-based child placement agencies have been casualties of the redefinition of marriage ever since same-sex couples were legally granted the benefits of marriage in Massachusetts in 2004. By 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the oldest adoption agencies in the country, was forced to shut down rather than violate its sincerely held religious beliefs by placing children with homosexual couples. The state refused the simple solution to the resulting loss of vital adoption services: an exemption for faith-based agencies. Soon the same thing happened in San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and elsewhere.
Because Michigan legislators saw what was happening and passed a law in 2015 protecting the free exercise rights of faith-based agencies, charities like Bethany and St. Vincent have been able to remain open and able to provide services without violating their religious beliefs. Other states passed similar laws, and still others are trying to pass them now.
As seen in the Dumont case, there is no credible evidence that the Michigan law has been an obstacle to same-sex adoptions in the state. Also, if the Dumont plaintiffs prevail and religious agencies close, it won't do one thing to increase the rights of people sexually attracted to members of the same sex, or to improve the odds of any child finding a home. In fact, it will reduce the odds.
It certainly won't eliminate stigma.
What it will do is wreak the LGBT community's vengeance on Christian organizations that, in obedience to their faith and protected by the First Amendment, dare to charitably stand aside from the same-sex carnival and withhold, as St. Vincent's attorney said, "endorsement of your relationship that contradicts ... our religious beliefs."
Dumont v. Lyon is transparently vindictive. Its cause of action is contrived in the fashion of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Memories Pizza, and similar cases where same-sex "victims" pre-select their victimizers, then goad courteous demurrals they promptly trot into court as civil rights violations.
If the ACLU still retained a speck of regard for free speech and the rights of religious believers, it wouldn't have touched this case with a barge pole. All the Dumont case proves is that the LGBT community is willing to sacrifice the best interest of Michigan's 13,000 foster care children for a society where the only views tolerated are its own.