Monday, March 21, 2022

(Source: Alliance Defending Freedom)

DETROIT – To resolve a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of Catholic Charities West Michigan, state officials have agreed the child welfare provider can care for children according to its religious beliefs without government punishment.

As part of a stipulated court order and judgment, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services conceded that it would violate the First Amendment to take any adverse action against Catholic Charities because the ministry prioritizes placing foster and adoptive children in homes with a married mother and father. The department also agreed to pay $250,000 toward the nonprofit’s attorney’s fees and costs.

“More adoption and foster care providers mean more children have the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “Catholic Charities West Michigan meets a critical need as one of the region’s largest social service providers, reuniting children with their birth parents and placing foster kids in loving homes. We are pleased Catholic Charities can continue its vital mission serving vulnerable families in Michigan without being punished by the government simply because it’s operating according to its religious beliefs—the very reason the ministry exists in the first place.”

For more than 70 years, Catholic Charities has served western Michigan by offering a wide array of child welfare, family preservation, and behavioral health services. Over the past decade, the charity has placed approximately 4,500 children in homes and annually serves more than 30,000 individuals through its numerous ministries. Its foster care ministry focuses on family reunification and provides support well above the state’s minimum requirements. Catholic Charities offers foster parent training opportunities; funding for children’s medical, dental, clothing, and extracurricular needs; and transportation for birth parents so they can be involved with children’s activities, despite temporary separation. The ministry also maintains a Family Visit House, where parents participating in a reunification plan can visit their children on a regular basis in a comfortable, homelike environment supervised by trained staff.

The lawsuit, Catholic Charities West Michigan v. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, asked the court to protect Catholic Charities from being singled out, punished, or disfavored because of its religious beliefs—beliefs that motivate its care for children, birth parents, and other vulnerable members of the community. The lawsuit further argued that state health officials were violating a 2015 state law specifically enacted to ensure that providers like Catholic Charities could maintain contracts with the state while maintaining their religious beliefs.