Friday, June 10, 2011

Religious Accommodation and Illinois Civil Unions Law

     I wrote about Catholic Charities, and the uproar they are causing in Illinois about having to give adoption services to gay and lesbian couples under the new civil unions law, a few days ago. In my discussion with people on this issue, both online and in person, many individuals have claimed that Catholic Charities should be allowed to discriminate and receive public funding because there are other options available to same-sex couples, in the form of public adoption agencies. This view was primarily articulated by Charles Haynes at the Daily Iowan in his article "Gay Rights vs. Religious Accommodation". 

     I have two responses for this seemingly acceptable compromise. First, that does not address the issue that I brought up in my last post on this subject - that same-sex couples are not receiving equal treatment in a service that their tax money is paying for. If the state would allow this religious accommodation, it would be allowing heterosexual married couples access the whole whole proverbial pie, yet restricting same-sex couples to  only a selected portion of it. That is not the equal access or equal treatment under the law.

       Secondly, when discussing the concept of religious accommodation, it is essential that those who are asking for such accommodation are consistent in its application. For example, if Catholic Charities had regulations that they would not place children in the homes of atheists, non-Christians, inter-faith couples, or couples where one person had been divorced, I would see - though not agree - with their rational for denying same-sex couples their services. Yet do we see this consistency? Not at all, for all of the above are allowed to adopt children through Catholic Charities without Catholic Charities batting an eye when processing their application.  The lesson from this example is that when receiving public funding, organizations such as Catholic Charities, cannot pick and choose which religious doctrines that they will follow in providing services, for it could be asked by the government, "You say that you religiously feel strongly about this one thing, yet you still do it? Why then are you asking for special exemption on this other issue?". If Catholic Charities is to receive any sort of religious accommodation, it should apply its religious beliefs consistently, not with selectivity.

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