Home > Uncategorized > A Response to NRO’s David French

A Response to NRO’s David French

In his column on August 19, the National Review Online’s David French begins with a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with (well, mostly, at least as edited by me):

In recent days and weeks, I’ve been pounding at the theme of how our culture and legal system place paramount importance on adult desires. Even when directly dealing with a child’s well-being …, the greater concern is adult happiness.

He states this premise, however, to begin a discussion of the ruling of the Illinois Circuit Court finding that Catholic Charities had no property right in providing foster care services in Illinois and that the State could cancel their contracts. So, to be clear about what the ruling said: The fact that an organization has long-contracted essential services with the state does not give that organization a right to provide those services and receive money under contract from the state.

Now, why French is upset is, well, I’ll let him say it:

After the passage of the state’s civil-unions bill, Illinois officials told Catholic Charities that its policy of placing children only in married households or where single parents live alone violated state anti-discrimination law and did not fit within the very narrow religious liberty protections contained in the civil-unions statute.

The consequence? More than 2,000 children are in danger of removal from Catholic Charities’ care — without any evidence that its care is deficient or harmful to these children.

So the oppressive state is picking on Catholic Charities and making them violate their own principles by forcing them to place children with homosexual couples in a civil union. Because, you know, the First Amendment, right?

Same-sex marriage advocates have long minimized its impact on religious liberty, but as this and other examples show, both religious liberty and child welfare are ultimately subordinate to sexual freedom.

Ah, yes, exactly.

Here’s the problem: French’s narrative is a fiction. It is absolutely untrue. The condition that Illinois civil unions be treated the same as marriages hardly came as a surprise to anybody. Right around the time that the Illinois civil union law came into effect Catholic Charities organizations in three separate dioceses indicated to the State of Illinois that as long as they were required to comply with the law that they would no longer be providing foster care and adoption services to any new foster children in their jurisdictions. Catholic Charities stopped these services and then sued the State of Illinois to ensure that they could continue to provide them under their terms.

So I think the fair question is who is actually abandoning children and for what principles. Or, to paraphrase French: which group is putting a “paramount importance on adult desires” over the well-being of children?

It is clear that Catholic Charities (and French!) is (are) advancing its (and his) tenuously grounded religious principle under the sword of the First Amendment at the expense of thousands of abused and neglected children in the State of Illinois.

Which is why I chuckled when I read French’s conclusion:

I had to chuckle when I read this quote from Kendall Marlowe, a state spokesman: “It’s in the best interest of children that we have an orderly transition.” Really? It’s in their best interest that they move from the care of a faithful and loving Catholic institution? In reality, the state only started to think about children’s interests after it made the decision to end its relationship with Catholic Charities. The transition itself driven by ideology, only its manner is dictated by child welfare.

No. It is not in the best interest of the thousands of foster children to lose their caseworkers (and potentially their placements) nor the institutional support of an organization that has been a zealous advocate for the wellbeing of Illinois children for over a century. However, it must be remembered that it was Catholic Charities that severed the relationship, not the State of Illinois. And, yes, the transition was driven by ideology: the ideology of Catholic Charities, not the ideology of the State of Illinois.

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