Courts and laws are recognizing Catholic religious rights
By Laurie Hallstrom
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops will observe Religious Freedom Week June 22-29.
The theme for this year is “Life and Dignity for All.” As the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization approaches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is especially mindful of the debates around our country about abortion. The Catholic Church plays a crucial role in bearing witness to the gospel of life and serving all who will be affected by these discussions and their outcomes.
Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions with integrity. Protecting Catholic adoption and foster care will become even more vital, as we take new steps in building a culture of life and dignity for all in the United States.
In the state of S.D., Catholic adoptions are handled by Catholic Social Services of Rapid City, which is a member of Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va. Locally, Kelli Whartman is the department head for Trinity Pregnancy and Adoption which covers both the Rapid City and Sioux Falls Dioceses. She works with expectant parents and couples seeking adoption. Her work must comply with state, federal and international adoption laws.
Catholic charities in some parts of the nation have had to discontinue adoption services for not allowing same sex couples to adopt or provide foster care for children. In S.D. “we have a law that Jim Kinyon (executive director for CSS) worked on a few years ago that states, ‘we can operate within our sincerely held religious beliefs. It protects us from cases like that,’” she said.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services Philadelphia, saying that it is within their constitutional rights to have stipulations on their program.
On June 17, 2021, CCUSA issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in favor of religious freedom in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case. “Catholic Charities USA welcomes the court’s ruling today to protect Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia’s ability to serve people in need in a manner consistent with the Church’s faith and values.”
Whartman added, “The field of social work tends to be very liberal, but we need to hold space for conservative social workers and conservative agencies. We need to think about what our clients want.”