| By Bishop Earl Boyea

We are strengthened and blessed by religious freedom

We have been recently involved in a federal lawsuit. It involves our Catholic Charities and their foster care and adoption services. The State of Michigan wishes to shut down this ministry unless we are willing to violate our Catholic teachings regarding marriage by certifying same-sex couples as foster or adoptive parents. Now, in fact, our charities assist with only a small percentage of the adoptions in the state, and do not prevent those we cannot serve from working with other agencies. Moreover, the State of Michigan has a great need for more adoption and foster providers, so that if the state were to succeed in canceling our contracts, it would ultimately hurt those children seeking placement in loving homes. In other words, the state’s contracts with our Catholic Charities benefit the common good and hurt no one. Thankfully, the federal judge overseeing the case recently ruled in our favor, finding that the attempt to eliminate our Catholic Charities’ adoption contracts was a targeted attack on our Catholic religious beliefs. So, while this case continues in the courts, our Catholic Charities may continue in their important work.

The bigger issue, it seems to me, however, is not about this particular attempt by the state to restrict or eliminate our adoption contracts. Rather, the issue is religious liberty. There are many countries in our world today that do not allow for religious freedom. But America’s founding documents establish religious freedom as a foundational right. The First Amendment to our Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” So, notice that freedom of religion is listed before and with freedom of speech and the press and assembly. This really is basic to who we are as Americans.

In studying history, I remember noting that the Soviet Union allowed for freedom of religious practice (read: freedom to attend Church) which, as we know, was very closely monitored. Religious folk were often denied advancement in society and otherwise persecuted. That country’s words were betrayed by their actions against religion.

Our participation in this lawsuit, then, really is a struggle to maintain and enhance the freedoms that we all enjoy as Americans. We don’t have to be all alike. When we share our gifts with one another freely, our society is strengthened and blessed. Please pray for God’s guidance as we continue in this process.