Fighting Discrimination

Christian Nationalist claims of religious discrimination in Mass. adoptions ring hollow

  Rob Boston

Kathleen Parker, a syndicated newspaper columnist with a conservative bent, is upset over a situation in Massachusetts involving the role religion plays in adoptions.

Parker is worked up because a couple was told they could not adopt a child unless they affirmed they would support him/her – even if the child is LGBTQ+.

It’s not an unreasonable request. Growing numbers of young people identify as LGBTQ+, and LGBTQ+ young people are overrepresented in the foster care system. Therefore, state officials have an obligation to ensure that all children are placed in loving homes where they will receive the support they need and deserve. The couple in question, Mike and Catherine Burke, told the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families that while they could accept an LGBTQ+ child, their first priority would be to remain faithful to the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality.

‘Contrary to natural law’

Here’s what those teachings say: “Homosexual acts … violate the true purpose of sexuality. They are sexual acts that cannot be open to life. Nor do they reflect the complementarity of man and woman that is an integral part of God’s design for human sexuality. Consequently, the Catholic Church has consistently taught that homosexual acts ‘are contrary to the natural law.’ Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Does this sound like a policy that would encourage love and support for an LGBTQ+ child? During a visit with the couple, a caseworker noted that the Burkes were clear that they would never provide gender-affirming care for a transgender child or use pronouns that differed from the child’s assigned gender at birth.

The Burkes are suing, backed by the Becket Fund, a Christian Nationalist legal group that’s part of the billion-dollar shadow network working to knock down the church-state wall.

Real discrimination in adoption and foster care

Parker and Becket point to this as a case of religious discrimination. It’s not. But the irony is, there are real cases of religious discrimination related to adoption and foster care. Consider Americans United’s client Aimee Maddonna, who was turned away by an evangelical Protestant child-placement agency operating on behalf of South Carolina because she’s Catholic. Or AU clients Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram, who were refused service by a state-contracted Christian foster care agency in Tennessee because the couple is Jewish. That’s real religious discrimination.

Parker denounces what happened in Massachusetts as a “witch hunt.” There is a witch hunt going on – it’s just not the one Parker and Becket think it is.

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