Adoption Agencies Can't Be Christian Anymore in Michigan

One of Michigan's major Christian adoption agencies is reversing its policy against placing children with same-sex couples, thanks to a legal settlement drafted by the ACLU and Michigan's radical attorney general, Dana Nessel.  Bethany Christian Services, the Grand Rapids–based global nonprofit adoption agency, has announced that it will begin placing children in LGBT homes in Michigan, "in compliance with our legal contract requirements."  Bethany's course reversal came after last month's settlement agreement between the ACLU and the State of Michigan.  Michigan was the defendant in the ACLU's federal lawsuit demanding that Michigan terminate contracts with faith-based adoption agencies that follow their religious convictions regarding marriage.  In a reported statement, Bethany expressed disappointment "with how this settlement agreement has been implemented by the state government."

The people running Bethany might well be disappointed.  Michigan's previous attorney general defended the 2015 law protecting faith-based agencies like Bethany from being compelled to act in ways that violate their "sincerely held religious beliefs."  Nessel, who made her name fighting for LGBT causes, campaigned for A.G. promising she wouldn't defend the law and would tell those in the Legislature they'd have to defend the law themselves "with private counsel."  But there was never a chance for that to happen, because within three weeks of her inauguration, she was announcing her intention to settle with the ACLU.

Back in 2012, the ACLU had joined up on Nessel's side in her previous successful, pre-Obergefell same-sex "equality" case, DeBoer v. Snyder.  It's fair to say that on LGBT and religious freedom issues, Nessel and the ACLU are of one mind: all in for the former, staunchly opposed to the latter.  This is as close as it gets to a lawyer negotiating with himself.

The resulting agreement, finalized in March, requires Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services to include language in its contracts forbidding adoption agencies from turning away any "LGBTQ individual or same-sex couple."  To ensure compliance, the department is also required to maintain a prominent link to an "Online Complaint Form" on its website's landing page.

In announcing its new policy, Bethany says its beliefs "have not changed," but it's applying the new policy only in Michigan, and not in private adoptions.  In other words, Bethany's adoption practices will be consistent with its deeply held beliefs everywhere else except Michigan, where its only other choice is to lose its contract with the state and close its doors.  (It's also been reported that a group of Bethany employees threatened to walk off their jobs if Bethany didn't change its policy, but no matter: bullying is bullying.)

The other targeted agency, the Lansing-based St. Vincent's Catholic Charities, is not going along.  That group is challenging Nessel's deal in a federal lawsuit filed by the Becket law firm on behalf of a Michigan couple who've adopted five special-needs children through St. Vincent's.  Nick Reaves, an attorney for Becket, says St. Vincent gets the majority of its work through state contracts, so the agency "would be forced to close down both its foster care and adoption programs if the state follows through on their threats."

That's perfectly okay with Nessel, who hates Catholics anyway.  She's called all Christians who support marriage "hate-mongers."  If she cared about adoption agencies closing down, she would have defended religious freedom from the ACLU.

Both tragic choices — for an adoption agency to close its doors and to publicly violate the principles of its faith — were the intended consequences of the ACLU's lawsuit.  Between the two, progressives take more joy in compelling believers to compromise their faith than in just driving them from the public square; getting Christians to violate their beliefs draws them into the Left's own corruption.  Why else does the Left fight ceaselessly against conscience rights and force Catholic sisters to pay for contraception, Christian doctors to participate in abortions, and Christian-owned businesses to endorse homosexual activities?

When Nessel thanked the now compliant Bethany for its capitulation, she said, "Having more adoption agencies not discriminate results in 'more children adopted into loving, nurturing 'forever' homes."  But forcing Christian agencies out of business results in fewer adoption agencies, period.  The ACLU's Jay Kaplan says the settlement shows that the state (i.e., Nessel and the ACLU) was willing to put the needs of children first, but that's a crock.  It shows the emotional needs of LGBT people being put first, just as it always has to be.  Kaplan says, "Children in foster care need every family that is willing and able to provide them with a loving home."  But kids in foster care also need as many agencies as possible to increase their chances.  Deliberately eliminating effective, experienced Christian adoption agencies defeats that purpose.  Fewer, not more children in Michigan will find homes now.

To show this isn't about "putting kids first," consider how the lesbian plaintiffs in this lawsuit deliberately bypassed secular adoption agencies willing to work with them in order to apply at St. Vincent and Bethany.  Their goal was not adoption, but to set a legal booby trap for two Christian agencies whose beliefs they found offensive.  It was never about same-sex couples being treated as second-class citizens who must "fight to adopt in Michigan," as a Detroit News headline falsely framed it last July.  It has always been about the LGBT community's bottomless desperation to be considered normal, even if it can get the approval only by brute force.

Nessel obviously doesn't see it as her duty to defend Michigan's laws, preferring to impose her own progressive agenda without regard for the authority of the legislative branch.  Even the Detroit News has noticed how she's "throwing out or undermining laws she doesn't like," even though "she's the attorney general, not the Legislature, and she is abusing her authority."  She's promised Planned Parenthood that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, she'll never enforce Michigan's existing abortion law.  Last month she drew some criticism for creating a Stasi-like "hate crimes unit" to serve as the Southern Poverty Law Center's government enforcer against unwoke thinking.  The American Freedom Law Center is now challenging that unconstitutional scheme in a federal lawsuit.

Dana Nessel's unfitness to serve as attorney general has even led to talk of impeachment by GOP Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey.  That's not going to happen, but the Legislature is at least trying to rein her in by proposals to cut her budget and introduce language "attempting to limit her discretion in lawsuits."

There's not enough Republican pull in Michigan to limit the A.G.'s power, either, but there's at least some indication Nessel's starting to feel less invincible.  Two days before the proposed budget cut, she was trying to reassure the Senate Oversight Committee that her hate-crime squad is only going to "focus on prosecuting legitimate crimes, 'not policing thoughts and words.'"  Nessel also denied that her office is working with the SPLC to target "hate groups," or that the unit will be "developing a database to document hate incidents."  You can believe her or not, since she and her hate-hunting partner, state civil-rights director Agustin Arbulu, already went on the record about their plans to document lawful incidents interpreted by them to be hateful.  As she was trying to convince the Senate she wasn't running a secret-police operation out of Lansing, Nessel could hardly contain her frustration that citizens she disagrees with are free to say — and even think — whatever they like:

While some people in this state may choose to exercise their right to free speech by thinking hateful thoughts, saying hateful words or associating with hate-filled people, as attorney general it is my job to protect that right, not to prosecute it, even if I vehemently disagree with those thoughts, words or associations.

Clearly, Dana Nessel sees herself as some kind of secular Apostle of Love, 100% guiltless of a single hateful thought, word, or association.  I just wonder if all the people on her enemy's list appreciate that about her.

T.R. Clancy looks at the world from Dearborn, Michigan. You can email him at