When States Force A Particular Secular Perspective

Recently, in a comment, Andrew raised the choices before Roman Catholic adoption agencies when states have mandated that all adoption agencies must be willing to adopt children to homosexual couples.  Specifically, he said:

“1) Continue receiving state funding and discontinue discriminating against potential parents based on certain criteria.

2) Give up state funding and continue discriminating. This would, of course, require the charity to put forth more money (of which the Roman Catholic church is in no short supply) to make up for the lost state money – which, rightfully so – should go towards causes which do NOT discriminate against the state’s residents.

3) Refuse to end discriminatory practices, refuse to compensate the lost state subsidies with their own money, and close the doors.”

As he noted, option three was the choice made.  There is more that should be added, however, to expand the perspective, here.  We should also look at the state, for it was the actions of the state that forced the Roman Catholic adoption agencies to consider those three options.

The state had four options:

1) Not make it illegal discrimination to choose not to place children in homes of homosexual couples.  Keep in mind that under adoption law, no one has the “right” to adopt and the “client” is actually the child.

2) Allowing a plurality of foster care and adoption providers, whatever their religious persuasions or secular positions, respecting the religious diversity we now have.  [And please keep in mind compelling interests again, here, and avoid the red herring knee jerk reactions, please.]

3) Refusing to allow adoption agencies to follow the moral dictates of their guiding religions.

4) Make foster care and adoption state-run only, removing the private sector entirely.

My understanding is the Illinois chose number 3.

In the end, I just have trouble seeing why we cannot press for option 2.  We should be respecting the diversity we have within our states.  To me, this has been one of the more disappointing aspects to the Measure 3 reaction.  It seems that some of the opponents were just as content to continue the “culture wars” in the same old cloth as the “religious right” so often is.  Rather than seeing Measure 3 and religious freedom from a more libertarian perspective, wherein each religiously affiliated entity may act accordingly, within the confines of “compelling interest” limits, some opponents want to force religious entities to have to accept things that are against their religious dictates.  Real religious freedom allows for everything from a freedom from religion to a freedom of religion.  What is needed is dialogue toward the end of holding these two together.

Nor is this something that is outside the bounds and experience of Orthodox Christianity.  Ours is a faith of free will.  The Sixth Ecumenical Council clearly grounded the discussion of free will in a proper understanding of Jesus as the Christ.  Yet, so often in America, we find ourselves between a rock (the political and secular left) and a hard place (the political and religious right).  It’s not easy, but perhaps with time, we can find the right dialogues with the right people and promote real freedoms and liberties.

2 Responses

  1. Andrew

    Hi Rev. Herbel,

    Again thanks for your good-faithed responses.

    1) “Keep in mind that under adoption law, no one has the “right” to adopt and the “client” is actually the child.”

    Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts. Peer-reviewed literature also supports the conclusion that same-sex parents are as effective as heterosexual parents. A recent study actually found the only statistical difference in outcomes to be by households led by two women.

    “In the end, I just have trouble seeing why we cannot press for option 2. We should be respecting the diversity we have within our states. ”

    The reason why #2 cannot be chosen is your explanation in #1. Adoption services should be focused on the children. No one has been able to present any evidence that same-sex parents in any way negatively affect the outcomes in children. One can then conclude that limiting who can adopt – based on moral dictates or anything other than things directly related to the probable outcomes of the child – should be considered a detriment to the entire process. At least insomuch as the use of public funds to facilitate adoption are concerned. There are so many children looking for good homes – far more than there are homes – that the state should not be in the business of supporting organizations who, even if well-intentioned, would use these funds to discriminate which prospective adopters are matched with children.

    “Real religious freedom allows for everything from a freedom from religion to a freedom of religion. What is needed is dialogue toward the end of holding these two together.”

    Absolutely. But again, the religious freedom of the individual (or even the church itself) should not be extended to deny freedoms for others. By allowing the churches adoption agency (which is not the church itself) to limit who can parents based on some moral dictates which cannot be substantiated through evidence is limited the right of the child to find a loving home where their future is far brighter than stuck in the foster/orphanage system. Similarly, it should not be the right of a churches’ extension services (e.g. a hospital) to deny what is considered a basic right (women’s health services such as contraception) to its employees because of it’s own moral edicts. If the church wants to get involved in these services (something that I commend) it should respect the diverse beliefs of those who rely on these services. Jesus practiced this every day.

    1. Andrew,

      I apologize for the delay in my response. This has been a very busy weekend. You raise a lot of different angles, so I’ll do my best, here.

      First, you mention peer reviewed literature. I haven’t had a chance to look into this topic specifically, so I am not able to contradict this directly, but I am aware that some have questioned your assertion. So, I’m not so sure the evidence is as straight forward as you claim. Nonetheless, I don’t think we need to get into the stats, numbers, interpretations, etc. for our exchange here.

      Second, if you wish to make a case strictly on the interpretation of empirical data, then you need to address how it is you claim some sort of metaphysical “right” to adopt. I’ve already stated that to the best of my knowledge, it’s not a right. I was speaking legally, but I’d be willing to transfer that to the metaphysical plane as well. So, which is it? Empirical data alone or are other forms of argument legitimate? If, as your rights language asserts, something else may be brought to discussion beyond whatever our current social science may suggest, then it’s just as fair for someone to make a claim about social good and/or moral good and claim that requiring homosexual adoption for any and all institutions is less than that good.

      I also see your discussion concerning discrimination is muddled. On the one hand, you imply that if gov’t funds were not involved, then discrimination is OK (one option you stated the Roman Catholic Church could have taken). Yet, in your second part (responding to the second quote) you don’t seem to want to go there either.

      In the end, what is needed is accommodation–real religious freedom, where churches and their institutions have freedom within “compelling interests” constraints and atheists and agnostics are free from religion. If we don’t press for this approach, we simply continue the culture wars language. This has actually been one thing that has really surprised me. I expected some of my atheists friends and colleagues to support religious freedom, with a more libertarian approach but instead, they wish to try to force me and other (especially, apparently, Roman Catholics) to conform to their (atheists’) take on things. That’s just the mirror opposite of what I hear from some in the religious right, who want to legislate every jot and tittle of morality.

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