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Michigan to Pay $550,000 to Settle Catholic Adoption Agency Lawsuit After Supreme Court Ruling

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One of the oldest Catholic adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan settled its almost three-year legal battle against the state this week, allowing the agency to obey its religious beliefs against placing children in single-parent or LGBT homes.

The Detroit News reports the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services settled the lawsuit on Tuesday with Lansing-based St. Vincent Catholic Charities. The charity had sued in 2019 after the state announced it would stop working with agencies that don't work with same-sex couples, unmarried couples, or LGBTQ individuals.

In addition, the state will not take action against St. Vincent's child-placement license. The department also will pay the agency $550,000 in attorney fees and court costs, according to the newspaper. 

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As CBN News reported in 2019, despite St. Vincent's distinctive success in helping foster kids find forever homes for 70 years, the state suddenly required all adoption agencies to match children with same-sex couples in order to continue to receive state funding.  

Attorneys with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit to fight the state's requirement, representing St. Vincent's, Melissa, and Chad Buck, a married couple who adopted five special-needs children through the agency, and a former foster child adopted through the Catholic charity. The complaint argued the state violated their First Amendment rights and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The settlement comes as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling last summer in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia in which the high court ruled Philadelphia was wrong to reject Catholic Social Services because the group said it wouldn't violate its religious beliefs about sexuality.

The Bucks told The Detroit News they were "relieved and overjoyed" with the state's decision. 

"We are relieved and overjoyed to know that St. Vincent can finally get back to placing vulnerable children with families like ours without the threat of closure," said Melissa Buck. "My husband and I are the proud parents of five beautiful, special needs children all adopted through St. Vincent. We look forward to continuing to work with St. Vincent to serve kids." 

St. Vincent "can't endorse same-sex or unmarried couples but will provide them with information on agencies who can," said Ryan Colby, a spokesman for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "A same-sex couple can even adopt a child in St. Vincent's care if they have their home study completed by a different agency."

Rich Budd, director of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Lansing told the Catholic News Agency St. Vincent's adoption policy is "rooted" in faith and facts.

"The teaching of the Catholic Church and, hence, the adoption policy of Saint Vincent is rooted in both faith and reason: That children, on the whole, do best in life when they grow up with a mom and dad who are married to each other," Budd said. "To have punished or proscribed that common-sense approach by law would have cruelly prevented Saint Vincent from being of service to couples who yearn for children and to vulnerable children who yearn for parents – hence we celebrate today's agreement."

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of