In a recent legal settlement, Catholic Charities West Michigan successfully challenged Michigan’s decision to bar state funds to adoption agencies that do not serve same-sex couples. The settlement forced Michigan to reimburse the charity for its legal fees and other costs.
Using an argument that has now become familiar to most Americans, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a lesbian mother of two and former gay rights activist, charged Catholic adoption agencies with discriminating against same-sex couples. In response, the Catholic adoption agencies used the same logic, accusing the Michigan state government of discriminating against Catholics and effectively denying them their religious freedom.
While Christians should celebrate this recent victory, it’s nonetheless sad this appeal had to be made. When gay marriage was legalized in Obergfell v. Hodges, Christians were assured that they could practice their faith and live out their values in peace, but this was almost immediately proven wrong. As the ink of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion was drying, LGBT groups immediately went after Christian bakers, florists, photographers, popular chicken sandwich chains, and other Christian organizations for their religious beliefs.
Defense Based on Reason not Faith
This war will continue so long as Christians keep using the religious freedom defense. Even though this argument has the best chance of winning in legal courts, it is unconvincing in the court of public opinion. As more Americans drift away from Christianity, they increasingly view this defense for denying service to same-sex couples not as a valid objection, but as a childish copout: “The Christian God doesn’t like gay people.”
Rather, it’s important to establish that most Christian churches are established on natural law (that is, moral laws based on objective truth) as much as the Bible. To be sure, faith and reason both matter enormously, but for an increasingly secular populace, actions and policies must be defended on the basis of reason much more than faith.
This has been the case with abortion, with the pro-life position steadily gaining popular support as it has adopted more reason-based arguments. The pro-life movement has grown because it has argued that unborn babies are people, and therefore abortion is murder. Although the Bible acknowledges this argument, the argument itself isn’t strictly based on the Bible.
Reasons Against Same-Sex Couples Adopting
Similarly, in issues involving marriage and children, Christians need to appeal to reason more than their faith. In the case of same-sex couples adopting, two issues need to be addressed. First, do all couples have a right to adopt a child? Second, do children have a right to a father and mother?
Concerning whether all couples have a right to adopt, the answer is that they do not. As any couple who has gone through the process of adoption understands all too well, many screenings and conditions have to be met. Someone from the adoption agency will inspect their home, rifle through their personal information, interview them and others, and then, after so many legal hurdles, possibly allow a child to live with them. Even then, the biological parent may change his or her mind and take back the child.
As painful and expensive as this process is, it is necessary because children are human beings with rights of their own, not objects a couple acquires out of boredom or simply some charitable impulse. Consequently, adoption agencies must discriminate among couples wanting to adopt, only selecting those who meet the criteria of good caretakers.
A Right to a Mother and Father?
This leads to the second issue of whether a child’s rights include having a mother and father, as opposed to two fathers or two mothers. The science on this is mixed, both because it’s a politically charged issue and because it’s a difficult thing to measure. One may say that a loving committed couple is enough, but one may contend that a loving committed heterosexual couple is necessary.
Katy Faust persuasively argues this latter view in her excellent book “Them Before Us.” She explains that men and women represent two distinct and essential supports to a child growing up; fatherhood and motherhood are not interchangeable or dispensable. Furthermore, she argues that a child does best with his or her biological parents in nearly all cases. For Faust, adoption is an alternative that should only be considered in cases of serious abuse or neglect.
Not only does Faust support her argument with a multitude of studies, but she has both a homosexual parent and an adopted child. Even though her situation would suggest that same-sex adoption should be treated the same as any other parental arrangement, her reasoning leads her to think otherwise.
Faust’s example is a good model for all Christians trying to serve their community in accordance with their values. Whatever charitable work they do — whether it is finding homes for orphans or allowing those orphans to be born in the first place — it is done for the person in need, first and foremost. This is not a political or religious issue, but a human one.
It is not a coincidence that this means they are doing God’s will in the process. Contrary to what opponents claim, Christian values are based on objective truth, not blind faith to various Bronze Age prejudices. As such, the goal is not about winning, but about making the world a better place.