Ending Religious Discrimination in Adoption

There’s welcome news out of the U.K. this week: the government-established Charity Commission has ruled that the adoption agency Catholic Care must abide by anti-discrimination laws and therefore may not refuse to consider same-sex couples as prospective parents:

The Charity Commission… ruled that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is a “serious matter” because it “departs from the principle of treating people equally”, and that religious views cannot justify such bias because adoption is a public matter.

…”In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, because the prohibition on such discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, such discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances. We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate.”

Predictably, Catholic Care is now planning to shut down, since as is abundantly clear by now, this church would rather see children go homeless than deliver them into the care of stable, loving families whose lifestyle the Catholic church disapproves of. Eleven other Catholic adoption agencies in England have all closed down already for the same reason, and this is the last one still in operation. If it closes its doors, that will be the end of Catholic-run adoption services in the country – and I say, good riddance.

The closure of Catholic adoption agencies can be likened to the disappearance of an industry because technology has provided a new way to do the same work more cheaply or efficiently. Yes, in the short run, this causes pain and dislocation for people who used to perform a job that’s no longer required and are now out of work. But in the long run, it’s better for our economy that obsolete industries vanish, because that portion of society’s resources can be redirected into more valuable and productive endeavors.

Just so is the disappearance of prejudiced religious charities. In the short run, it may cause pain and hardship for the people those charities were willing to serve. But in the long run, it’s better for society that they vanish, because that slack will inevitably be taken up by new groups that cater to everyone, without fear or favor, and don’t arbitrarily exclude or refuse to help people who don’t fit a narrow set of prejudices. (See this post for an example of how this has worked in Washington, D.C.)

This story is a classic example of why I asked how much good religious charities really do. Catholic Care’s refusal to abide by pro-equality laws shows that their main priority isn’t helping people in need, but enforcing religious discrimination, partitioning the world into sets of people whom they judge as worthy or unworthy of their aid. A group like this doesn’t deserve the support of the public or the state, just as we wouldn’t tolerate a charity that refused to serve black people. It’s better that they disappear so that they can be replaced by an organization whose only goal is to do good, rather than one that sees doing good as a side effect of promoting their archaic and narrow-minded worldview.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Katie M

    Catholics consider both faith and good works necessary to go to heaven. I don’t think Jesus would be very pleased to see children being denied homes in his name. If there WERE a Catholic heaven, these people would have some explaining to do.

  • Eurekus

    These Catholics, they’re in trouble. They are all going to hell for all eternity for sure! To think, after a billion years God is going to flip them over and cook the other side for their bigotry.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Could we please wise up in the US on this issue?

    But, the UK has to get rid of their government funded faith based schools.

    But, the faith based schools in the US keep trying as hard as they can to get their hands on government money.

    They might as well call the faith based initiative in the US the bigotry based initiative.

    Do you know that on the Americorps website, probably about half of the orgs are faith based, and most of them list right in their descriptions that they only help God’s people.

    Disgusting. They are getting government funds to spread their message of hatred and bigotry.

  • Aegis

    Here in the UK there isn’t actually a law separating church and state – hell, since Henry VIII, the Protestants have held the title of official state religion. It’s not that we’ve got a single law declaring such mingling illegal, it’s more that we put human rights laws first because too few people are dumb enough to let their faith run the country. Quite a fortuitous result from such beginnings – Protestantism is also known as the Church of England after all. XD

  • Scotlyn

    One book that made an impact on me many years ago was “The Development of the family and marriage in Europe” by Jack Goody. His convincingly argued thesis is that the 4th century church set out a set of totally novel kinship prohibitions – including a ban on marrying the widows/widowers of close kin (for which there is no biblical basis, quite the opposite), a ban on marrying kin to a large number of degrees, a ban on divorce, a ban on ADOPTION (surprisingly) and various other bans. These were often completely novel, rigidly enforced, and introduced a brand new phenomenon to Europe – heirlessness. Heirless owners of property, unable to divorce from a childless marriage and remarry, or adopt, or resort to other traditional strategies to keep stuff in the family, and also under threat of punishment, and promise of spiritual inducements, began to leave their property to the Church, rapidly swelling its coffers and landbanks.

    It’s ironic that the Catholic church only became a fan of adoption in the last couple of centuries. And during those centuries Catholic adoption agencies have often been run as an industry. At one end, enter the poor, the guilty, the frightened pregnant sinners, at the other end the product, the beautiful babies to cement the childless marriages of the pious, and in the middle the collection of state subsidies and private donations for the blessed work. Like every factory line, there are also waste products – women forever burdened with the fear of discovery and the exposure of a shame not their own.

  • Andrew T.

    Great news.

    It amazes me that anyone would defend the Catholic church in this day and age: They’ve definitely been on a roll lately of proving that they’ll actively encourage bigotry and suffering rather than admit that the rigid dogma they endorse is ever wrong. Assuming they keep it up, it’ll be interesting to see how irrelevant they’ll be in twenty years as the rest of society move on.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    They’re hating themselves into oblivion, which is fine by me. Secular charities do a much better job anyway.

  • DSimon

    Scotlyn, luckily, due to advancements in medical science, heirlessness is no longer a problem in the modern age. And anyways you can always get a toupee. :-)

  • Kennypo65

    I was raised catholic, attended catholic school from k-8, was an altar boy, and a boy scout in a troop sponsored by my parish. This was the 1970′s, and I must admit it was a good upbringing. The priests and nuns at my school were first class educators, we actually learned science in science class. The dogma was taught, but in a very casual way. I don’t recall if I was ever threatened with hellfire. I’m an atheist, and probably always was, but the continuing scandals of my former church sadden me. They sadden me because these men and women who were decent and honest and a major influence in my life, will be painted with the same brush. I really believe that my early catholic education made me a better person, and I have these people to thank for it.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Once again, the Catholic hierarchy reveals its foulness and shame to the world.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Let us hope they continue to cling to the anchor of bigotry, thinking it a life-buoy.

  • Eurekus

    Kennypo65

    Actually, you are right. I too have to thank the church for what I am today, fair call. But I may have been something equally good or better without church influence.

  • Demonhype

    I was also raised Catholic, and I do not consider it a good upbringing. It really enlightened me as to the depths of evil to which people can sink. The values taught were ass backward in every case–example: Proper Obedience was considered more important than basic human decency. A boy called a teacher a bitch behind her back just a breath too loudly–no one was more surprised than he was!–and he was expelled. A gorilla of a girl brutally beat another, smaller and health-compromised, girl half to death and got a 25 minute detention.

    The most evil kids I ever went to school with were in Catholic school. They were the most hateful, the most self-righteous, and the least likely to consider their behavior as being wrong. (Why bother, we’re Blessed in the Eyes of the Lord and going to Heaven, after all.) Public school kids were much better people, having been forced to deal with actual diversity of races and views rather than have discrimination and hatefulness being taught unopposed in a little overChristianized bubble. I loved public school. It’s easier to deal with kids who haven’t been taught that their Shit does not Stink for it is Divinely Blessed.

    I would home school before I’d send any of my kids to one of those vile indoctrination farms, where the production of mindlessly obedient drones to the Catholic church was more important than real-life right and wrong. I can’t wait to see these discriminatory bastards lose every bit of power and relevance and fall out of public view forever.

    My mom tried the “good upbringing” bullshit on me once, that I am only the good person I am today because of my Good Catholic Upbringing, and without that, apparently, my atheism would be causing me to be a criminal. I pointed out that every view I have today is in direct defiance of everything I was taught in Catholic school, and not a single good thing about me today is because of Catholic school or Catholic church or any kind of Catholic upbringing or influence. Never once, even when I was Catholic, did I do what what “right” because of anything I had been taught by Catholicism–or anyone else, really. I did things that were “right” because I understood the reasoning they were right, and because I wasn’t a fucking sociopath. Most things I knew were right were in opposition to what I was taught.

    Now the suicidal tendencies I fight with to this day–that is directly because of the Good Catholic Upbringing. Somehow, despite the direct relationship between the two, I doubt any of them want to chalk that up to the Good Catholic Upbringing, though they are eager to take my many good characteristics, unrelated as they are to my Catholic Upbringing, as a direct result of the Holy Church’s influence. Confirmation bias and No True Scotsman and all those apologetics that apply, you know. Just as Kennypo65 will no doubt be an affirmation of all that is truly lovely about Catholicism to them, my experience will often be dismissed under all applicable fallacious apologetics.

    She shut her mouth about Good Catholic Upbringings when I told her that, and has never mentioned that again.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Demonhype,

    The world refuses to recognize the pain and trauma of religious abuse, but I recognize it, because it is my pain too. You are incredibly strong and brave. You are a survivor. You must continue. Don’t give in to suicide.

    Every adult survivor of childhood religious abuse who subsequently lost the fight with their suicidal urges needs you to stand up for them, to continue to tell your story, to make your voice heard. We will not be silenced. We will not be dismissed. We will not be brushed aside or mocked or marginalized.

    I know that there are people in your life who love you and who would do anything, literally anything, to help you if you reach out to them.

    My baby brother killed himself in February. I still feel like I am walking around with a huge gaping, bleeding wound in my chest. A wound that will never heal. The pain is overwhelming, debilitating. The guilt, the anguish. It’s ineffable.

    If you kill yourself, that is the pain that you will be inflicting on the people who love you. I believe that my baby brother did what he did to punish our parents (and he succeeded), but I don’t think he ever stopped to think about the punishment, the utter agony he would be inflicting upon his siblings. I almost didn’t survive the aftermath.

    I want you to know that, because I hope it will still your hand the next time you think about ending your life.

    I need you to stand up for me and my baby brother and all other adult survivors of childhood religious abuse.

    Don’t silence yourself. Tell your story. Continue surviving.

    Your mother may not understand, or be able to admit the truth to herself, but I understand.

    Your pain is real. But, you are strong enough to withstand it.

    Stay strong, my friend. And, when you can’t cope, come here. I’ll be here for you. And, I know that rest of the Daylight Atheism community will be here for you as well.

  • Eurekus

    Demonhype

    I was thinking about sending my children to a Catholic school. There’s not much else around here and the closest selective state school is an hour in the bus away and the local state schools are rubbish. I actually was about to fill out the form. I reckon I’ll think about it for a few days. It really shits me that faith has infected our society so much that I can’t even find a good independent secular school in the area.

    Remember, life is too good to let go of. There’s just too much to live for. Only the dead are fucked.

  • Zietlos

    Eurekus: DISCLAIMER: Don’t actually fuck the dead. It has been found to be an unhygienic practice.

    My (public) high school was pretty bad. We came from a pretty bad neighborhood, unfortunately, so the schools had reputations. Ours was the one that the expelled kids were sent to. Weekly knifefights, at least one shootout a term (though usually no injuries), nasty. A sign in big, bold letters in the science hallway said “Don’t lick the walls”, with a huge gov’t disclaimer beneath it. Loved that sign.

    BUT, the one thing we always had going for us, we were STILL better off than the hellhole that was the catholic school. When you know several drug dealers, knife-fighters, and prostitutes (like I said, I was in a BAD school), and THEY say they’re afraid to go near the catholic school because it is too violent and dangerously gang-filled, well, it makes sense to avoid it as best as possible. So even in bad communities, it seems the cesspool quotient is across the board.

    As for the OP topic, glad to see them gone. Soon, good ones will come, and help usher in a new age of caring families.

  • Eurekus

    Zietlos

    After your disclaimer, I think I’ll choose my words a little more carefully.

  • Kennypo65

    Demonhype, I am sorry that happened to you, I really am. However Sarah is right, suicide only hurts the ones who really love you. Talk to them and I’m sure that they will do whatever they can to help you.

    My last post was not me being an apologetic by any definition. I was just trying to share my personal experience with…I don’t want to say “Catholicism” because that’s not what it was for me. I mean that I was educated by smart people that I admired, but thanks to the despicable behavior of the church, My teachers’ “good works” don’t count just because they happened to wear habits. The catholic hierarchy has tainted those experiences for me.

  • Kennypo65

    Eurekus: “but I may have been something equally good or better without the church’s influence.” And if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. There’s no way to know who you would be. Guess you’ll just have to be happy being the better person that you are.

  • javaman

    After all the child rape that the church has allowed and covered up , why should this evil , vile, cult be allowed to have any say that involves children s welfare?

  • Paul S

    Anyone else see the irony? The Catholic Church is anti-abortion, so it stands to reason that there will be more parentless children in the orphanage. Then the Catholic Church turns around and tells those same parentless children, “Sorry, we can’t allow you to be adopted by a same-sex couple. Enjoy your time in the orphanage.”

  • Sarah Braasch

    If they allegedly aren’t proselytizing with this federal money, then why do they need to discriminate in their hiring practices?

    The US needs to reclaim secularism. Secularism is the bedrock of democracy.

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a travesty. Thank god it no longer applies to the states.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/us/26religion.html?_r=1&hp

  • Scotlyn

    Another twist on the Catholic adoption agency story. Apparently, the Irish Commission on Child Abuse, which was set up to enquire widely into the treatment of children in Catholic-run institutions, uncovered evidence in 2004 that some children in care homes were used to test vaccines without their relatives providing any consent. It was another income stream for the religious orders concerned. The Commission was specifically prohibited from investigating the matter, while GlaxoSmithKline did provide the Irish govt with a number of damning files. But, the government has steadfastly refused to investigate further. Full story here.