JACKSON, Miss. — A Christian adoption agency that receives money from “Choose Life” license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency’s “Statement of Faith.”
Bethany Christian Services stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year.
“It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith,” Bethany’s state director Karen Stewart wrote. “Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant’s time, money and emotional energy.”
Sandy and Robert Steadman, who learned of Bethany’s decision in a July 8 letter, said their priest told them the faith statement did not conflict with Catholic teaching.
Loria Williams of nearby Ridgeland said she and her husband, Wes, had a similar experience when they started to pursue an adoption in September 2004.
“I can’t believe an agency that’s nationwide would act like this,” Loria Williams said. “There was an agency who was Christian-based but wasn’t willing to help people across the board.”
Policy to be reviewed
Bethany, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has 75 offices in 30 states, including three in Mississippi. The offices are independently incorporated and are affiliated with various religions, spokesman John Van Valkenburg said from the agency headquarters. He couldn’t say whether any were Catholic-affiliated.
He said the Jackson office is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America.
“They included this practice of not including Catholics,” Van Valkenburg said Friday.
Stewart told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that Bethany’s board will review its policy, but she didn’t specify which aspects will be addressed.
The agency’s Web site says all Bethany staff and adoptive applicants personally agree with the faith statement, which describes belief in the Christian church and the Scripture. It does not refer to any specific branches of Christianity.
“As the Savior, Jesus takes away the sins of the world,” the statement says in part. “Jesus is the one in whom we are called to put our hope, our only hope for forgiveness of sin and for reconciliation with God and with one another.”
‘Choose Life’ tags for one and all
Sandy Steadman said she was hurt and disappointed that Bethany received funds from the Choose Life car license plates. “I know of a lot of Catholics who get those tags,” she said.
She added: “If it’s OK to accept our money, it should be OK to open your home to us as a family.”
Bethany is one of 24 adoption and pregnancy counseling centers in Mississippi that receive money from the sale of Choose Life tags, a special plate that motorists can obtain with an extra fee.
Of $244,000 generated by the sale of the tags in 2004, Bethany received $7,053, said Geraldine Gray, treasurer of Choose Life Mississippi, which distributes the money.
“It is troubling to me if they are discriminating based on only the Catholics,” Gray said.
The Bethany spokesman, van Valkenburg, said the offices in Mississippi do not receive any public money, but that some offices in other states do, for example, because they are involved in foster care.
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