Roman Catholic Church free — but wrong — to reject adoptions by gay parents


Roman Catholic bishops are refusing to budge: They’d rather end their adoption services in several states than accept gay parents.

And that’s a real shame. Other religious groups that don’t recognize same-sex marriage have been willing to compromise — a conservative Lutheran adoption agency in Illinois, for instance, agreed to abide by laws against discrimination so it can continue to receive state funding and provide neglected children with homes.

Yet while we argue that the bishops’ priorities are all wrong, Catholic Charities does have the right to opt out of the adoption business. When a private religious organization wants to reject state funding and refuses to recognize gay marriages, it should generally be free to do so.

That’s not to say religious liberties always take precedence. Consider the case of a Christian grad student at Augusta State University in Georgia. She was expelled from the counselor education program when she refused to abide by the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.

Jennifer Keeton sued, arguing that if she were a high school counselor, she should not have to tell students it’s acceptable to be gay. Instead, she indicated that she’d try to convert them to being heterosexual, school officials said.

Like the Catholic bishops, Keeton maintained that gay rights threaten her religious freedom. Yet forcing a public university to grant a degree is a totally different story: Keeton wasn’t simply seeking an exemption for her own religious views. She was expecting the university, and her future clients, to work around her personal beliefs.

That’s asking too much. Which is why an appeals court ruled against Keeton, saying that requiring her to undergo cultural sensitivity training did not discriminate against her viewpoint; it simply reflected the expectation that counselors “refrain from imposing their moral and religious values on their clients.”

It’s a tricky balance: Religious exemptions should exist, as long as the cost to everyone else’s rights is not too great. (A private Catholic hospital can’t deny same-sex couples their lawful visitation and decision-making rights, for example.)

Yet at the same time, Catholic Charities can’t be compelled to provide social services for the state. Gay couples can still go elsewhere for adoptions. They shouldn’t have to, but in the name of religious freedom, they will.

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