On question of Texas lesbian parents adopting refugee child through Catholic Charities, media coverage skewed

In Texas, a lesbian couple is suing in federal court after being told they "don't mirror the Holy family" and can't foster refugee kids, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Some of the arguments at play mirror those that made headlines last year when the Texas Legislature passed a law to protect the conscience rights of faith-based adoption agencies that receive state funds.

However, the latest case involves federal law since the U.S. government, not state agencies, are involved in the refugee children's placement.

The Dallas paper reports:

AUSTIN — Two Texas women are suing the Trump administration after the couple say they were told they could not foster a refugee child because they don't "mirror the Holy Family." 
Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin, both professors at Texas A&M University, said they were turned away by Catholic Charities Fort Worth after they expressed interest in applying to be foster parents to a refugee child. Catholic Charities, which has multiple regional offices, is the only organization in Texas that works with the federal government to resettle unaccompanied refugee children here. 
Catholic Charities' program is overseen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of two lead agencies that partners with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. With the help of the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal, the couple is suing both the Conference and U.S. Health and Human Services, saying the decision to reject their interest in foster care violated the U.S. Constitution.

The first version of the story that I read didn't include a response from Catholic Charities up high. But the Morning News later added this statement from the Fort Worth bishop:

In a statement, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth did not comment on the couple's specific allegations but insisted their refugee foster care rules comply with all federal regulations and laws.
"Finding foster parents — and other resources — for refugee children is difficult work," Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson said. "It would be tragic if Catholic Charities were not able to provide this help, in accordance with the Gospel values and family, assistance that is so essential to these children who are vulnerable to being mistreated as meaningless in society."

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz, a veteran Catholic scribe and longtime GetReligion reader, complained:

The story is clearly a setup of these poor, poor lesbians who are just trying so hard to offer love and attention for a poor little refugee child but now they can't do that because the big ol', bad ol', mean ol' misogynistic, homophobic Catholic Church is colluding with the equally misogynistic, homophobic federal government to impose their religious views on everyone else. That's the bottom line of the whole thing. Just look at the headlines of the other stories that are linked within the piece: "Texas House passes bill protecting religious adoption agencies that deny services, turn away prospective parents" and "Texas bill to protect religious adoption agencies that deny prospective parents likely to become law."
Probably not the best language for the agency to have used — if they used it — but everyone should have seen this coming. 

The headline is misleading, though — they’re suing the USCCB, Catholic Charities as well as HHS, and not Trump himself.

And this was clearly a setup: “Marouf, who directs the Texas A&M School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic… Esplin, 33, who designed the curricula for the A&M College of Medicine's child and adolescent psychiatry bioethics fellows…” Did anyone at Dallas News think about that possibility or did they just go ahead with it without asking the litigants, "So, when did you two cook this scheme up?" or something along that line. Or were the press in on it from the very beginning? I mean, the story was filed a full day before the suit was even filed and there's no mention in the story itself -- only in the cutlines for the photos -- that they held a press conference. 

Plus, why didn't they mention what happened in Massachusetts and Illinois with Catholic Charities being forced out of adoption services because of similar lawsuits?

The reader obviously has a point of view. But he is right about two things: First, the Morning News coverage on this topic always seems to present it from the perspective of the same-sex couples as opposed to the faith-based agencies with sincere beliefs. Second, Catholic Charities has been forced out of such services in certain states rather than compromise its beliefs. I was told this while reporting a Christian Chronicle story on the Texas law last year:

“If you look at other states — in California, in Massachusetts, in Washington, D.C. — Catholic Charities closed their foster/adoption programs completely because the state required child placements with same-sex couples,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

But if the Dallas paper's story is slanted, it's not as slanted as the Washington Post's version. The Jekyll-and-Hyde Post quotes nobody on the Catholic side, as another reader pointed out:

In yesterday's WaPo, a story about a lesbian couple suing a Catholic agency for discrimination, they don't even bother to ask the agency for comment or a neutral legal expert for an opinion.

On some level, the Morning News is at least reflecting some notion of the other side. The Post, on the other hand, is doing advocacy for the plaintiffs. That's not, just in case you're curious, good journalism.


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