Buck v. Gordon
Thousands of foster children nationwide are waiting for their forever family, but there are not enough families willing to foster and adopt. In Michigan, no one addresses this crisis more effectively than faith-based adoption agencies like St. Vincent Catholic Charities. But in 2019, the Attorney General of Michigan signed an agreement with the ACLU attempting to shut down the state’s partnerships with faith-based foster and adoption agencies, putting at risk thousands of children who desperately need homes. In April 2019, Becket filed a lawsuit representing a former foster child, the parents of five adopted children with special needs, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities, asking the court to allow faith-based agencies to continue what they do best: uniting children with loving families.
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A national foster care crisis
Our nation is facing a national foster care crisis. Thousands of vulnerable children are waiting for their forever family, but there are not enough families willing to foster and adopt.
There are over 13,000 foster children in Michigan alone. Each year, over 600 Michigan children “age out” of the foster system, meaning that at the age of 18 they are on their own, never having found a family to provide stability, love and support or a permanent place to call home. No one addresses this issue more effectively than faith-based agencies. That’s why the State of Michigan depends on private agencies like St. Vincent Catholic Charities to recruit and support foster and adoptive families.
The ACLU and the Attorney General of Michigan try to end ties with faith-based agencies
St. Vincent is particularly good at finding homes for sibling groups, older children, and children with special needs. In 2017, St. Vincent recruited more new adoptive families than nearly 90 percent of the other agencies in its service area. St. Vincent also helped Melissa and Chad Buck adopt five children with special needs and continues to provide them with loving support and resources.
Yet in March 2019, the Attorney General of Michigan announced a new policy to try to end the state’s vital partnership with faith-based agencies like St. Vincent. The state claims this action is necessary to protect same-sex couples, but no same-sex couple has ever been unable to foster or adopt because of St. Vincent’s religious beliefs, and St. Vincent refers any couples it cannot serve to other agencies who can. The state’s actions will only lead to fewer agencies to help all parents and harm to thousands of children who are in desperate need of loving homes.
Becket defends foster children, families, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities
On April 15, 2019, Becket filed a lawsuit representing a former foster child, the parents of five adopted children with special needs, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities, asking the court to allow faith-based agencies to continue what they do best: uniting children with loving families. Oral argument was heard on August 22, 2019. On September 26, 2019, the district court ordered the State of Michigan to continue working with St. Vincent while this case continues, ruling that “the State’s real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent’s religious belief and replace it with the State’s own.” This case is currently on hold while the Supreme Court considers the rights of religious foster agencies in Fulton v. Philadelphia.
Importance to religious liberty
- Individual freedom: The government discriminates against religious groups if it prevents them from providing services simply based on their religious beliefs.
- Public square: Faith-based organizations have the same right as secular organizations to operate in the public square. Religion in the public square is not a threat, but rather a natural expression of a natural human impulse.
- Free Speech: The government can’t coerce religious organizations to speak a government-approved message. It cannot force them to choose between closing their doors and engaging in speech and actions contrary to their religious teaching.