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The legal defense for Catholic Charities West Michigan representing their lawsuit against the state of Michigan over adoption policy is listed as a Hate Group

April 28, 2019

Catholic Charities West Michigan announced recently that they will be filing a lawsuit against the State of Michigan because of the decision by Attorney General Dana Nessel to overturn previous legislation in Michigan that allowed adoption agencies the ability to deny same sex couples from adopting children.

HB 4188 was passed in 2015 and often framed as a religious freedom bill. The legislation allowed adoption agencies in Michigan the ability to deny LGBT couples/partners/families from adopting because it violated the “sincerely held religious beliefs” of most of the adoption agencies in Michigan, like Catholic Charities West Michigan.

We reported on this piece of legislation in 2015, since the bill was introduced by Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R). Rep. LaFontaine received $8,100 in campaign contribution in 2014 from the DeVos family, as did many of the cosponsors of HB 4188.

Now that the Michigan Attorney General has reversed this policy, there is pushback from some adoption agencies. Catholic Charities West Michigan filed a lawsuit last Thursday in the State Court of Claims arguing that the Attorney General’s decision discriminates against religious institutions and puts Catholic Charities adoption and foster care ministry at risk of closure.

According to an MLive article, the head of Catholic Charities West Michigan declined to comment and he referred any media inquiries to the Alliance Defending Freedom Group, which is based in Arizona and will be representing Catholic Charities in the lawsuit. 

What the MLive article did not reveal is that the Alliance Defending Freedom was an entity that was founded by some 30 different Christian ministries that make up a large part of the Religious Right in the US. The Alliance Defending Freedom was started in 1994, with the backing of people like Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries) and James Dobson (Focus on the Family). The intent of the Alliance Defending Freedom was to provide the religious community with legal representation that was counter to what the ACLU provides.

According to a statement released on Friday by Alliance Defending Freedom: 

“Adoption and foster care providers exist to serve children and for decades Catholic Charities has done that well,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. “Michigan law already affirms that faith-based ministries provide essential services to the state and may continue to serve children in a manner consistent with their beliefs. The state has no business ignoring the law, implementing Attorney General Nessel’s hostile political agenda, or punishing a religious organization because of its Catholic identity and beliefs. Children in Grand Rapids, throughout Michigan, and across the country will suffer if this hostility toward faith-based adoption providers becomes the status quo.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Alliance Defending Freedom as a Hate Group on the Hate Map, with the following list of grievances:

The Southern Poverty Law Center also states that the, “ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBT people on the basis of religion. Despite its regular defamation of LGBT people, the group has managed to win special advisory status at the United Nations, in the European Union, and with the Organization of American States. Since the election of President Donald Trump, the ADF has become one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBT rights.”  

It is unfortunate that the news media in Michigan has omitted any serious contextual information about Alliance Defending freedom, specifically it longstanding anti-LGBTQ positions.

We will continue to report on this legal battle as it plays out in the coming months, but it is important that people fully understand who is legally representing Catholic Charities of West Michigan.

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