Bethany Christian Services, the largest Christian adoption and foster agency in the United States, will begin placing foster children with same-sex couples for the first time after a legal battle in its home state of Michigan.
When Michigan’s attorney general declared this month that foster agencies contracting with the government can no longer decline to work with LGBT families, Bethany opted to change its longstanding policy rather than lose the opportunity to help find homes for the thousands of vulnerable children who live there.
The legal fight in the Great Lakes State, pushed forward by a 2017 lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is one of a string of battles challenging faith-based agencies’ significant involvement in foster care and adoption nationwide—forcing officials to balance the religious convictions of these ministries with the rights of protective parents.
“We are disappointed with how this settlement agreement has been implemented by the state government. Nonetheless, Bethany will continue operations in Michigan, in compliance with our legal contract requirements,” a spokesman for the Grand Rapids-based organization said in a statement. “We are focused on demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by serving children in need, and we intend to continue doing so in Michigan.”
Bethany, which has been in operation for 75 years, emphasized that its mission and Christian beliefs have not changed. The shift only applies for placement in foster care and foster-to-adopt programs in Michigan, and will not affect policies for infant adoption, international adoption, or foster placements in the 34 other states where Bethany operates.
Practicing Christians have been found to be twice as likely as the overall population to adopt and 50 percent more likely to foster, according to Barna Research. Last year, Bethany worked with more than 1,000 children in Michigan—about 8 percent of the foster or foster-to-adopt cases statewide. The year before, the agency provided foster care placements for more than 3,800 children across the US, in addition to 6,000 adoptions.
Religious liberty advocates have challenged Michigan’s decision as discriminatory against faith-based agencies, which America’s foster care system relies on. “The Michigan Attorney General and the ACLU are trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which will continue to fight the decision on behalf of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, a fellow Michigan agency and the target of the ACLU lawsuit. “The result of that will be tragic. Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve.”
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Source: Christianity Today