Judge rules against Catholic Charities - Los Hechos y el Derecho TV LHD TV

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Judge rules against Catholic Charities

Circuit judge rules agency doesn't have right to state contracts; DCFS will resume process of removing foster care, adoption cases.

Catholic Charities Logo

Now that a Sangamon County judge has ruled Catholic Charities does not have a right to state contracts, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services plans to resume the process of removing some 2,000 foster care and adoption cases from Catholic Charities agencies in Peoria, Joliet, Springfield and Belleville.

DCFS will review each child's case, as well as the performance and capacity of other private agencies before transferring Catholic Charities' caseloads to other agencies.

"I don't think I need to comment on the decision, it speaks for itself," DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said Thursday.

File:FEMA - 10370 - Photograph by Mark Wolfe taken on 08-29-2004 in Florida.jpg
A Catholic Relief Charities volunteer cooks burgers for residents 
affected by Hurricane Charley

Circuit Judge John Schmidt ruled Thursday on a lawsuit Catholic Charities in four dioceses brought against the state in an effort to maintain state-funded foster care programs. He did not address the issue of whether a state contractor that refuses to serve gays and lesbians is violating the state's new civil unions law.

The faith-based agency sued after DCFS made it clear that state agencies could not legally give state contracts to agencies that violate the state's anti-discrimination laws.

Catholic Charities has maintained that its policy of licensing only married couples or singles for foster care and adoption - while transferring unmarried couples who live together, including same-sex couples - is exempt from the state's anti-discrimination laws, emphasizing its long-standing contractual relationship with DCFS.

Among its arguments, Catholic Charities said it was entitled to a hearing over the canceled contracts because after 40 years of annually renewed pacts, the organization had developed a "property interest" in the work and should be able to object to state action.

"No citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government," Schmidt wrote.

The Catholic Charities in the four dioceses had state contracts totaling $30 million. Catholic Charities of Peoria serves about 1,000 foster care cases in 26 counties, including about 300 in Peoria County.

The Most Reverend Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria stated he was extremely disappointed to hear the ruling made against Catholic Charities, according to a news release.

"Catholic Charities is one of the lead providers of foster care services in the state. They have been valued partners for decades. Clearly the intent of the civil union law was not to force the state to end these contracts and force the transfer of thousands of children's cases.

"We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law," Jenky said in the release.

Jenky and others in the diocese are "simply astonished that the politicians of the state of Illinois seem to be unwilling to grant the same kind of religious accommodations that have been granted in the states of New York and Rhode Island regarding their establishment of civil unions."

A spokesman for Catholic Charities said the organization's lawyers were reviewing the ruling "and considering next actions."

A lawyer for the organization said in court Wednesday that losing the state contracts would hurt not only Catholic Charities' work, but those who want to be adoptive or foster parents in remote areas of the state where the group is the only one working in the field. PJstar

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