The term culture war reflects a clash between people or groups who have “different ideals, beliefs, and philosophies." It’s a perfectly polite definition that does nothing to reflect what’s at stake in an impolite world.
And the stakes are high.
Deseret News reporter Gillian Friedman last week detailed the legal battle going on in a Michigan courtroom that could have far-reaching consequences for children and families of all stripes. It could also change the way truly humanitarian work is done in this country.
As Gillian wrote, the ACLU sued the state of Michigan because the state contracts with private agencies, in this case St. Vincent Catholic Charities, to place foster children into homes and facilitate adoptions. St. Vincent is not willing to go through the process of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of couples who are gay because it violates the organization's strongly held religious beliefs, so it points them to other agencies. That’s discriminatory, says the ACLU, and the state should not contract and fund agencies that discriminate.
But there is more to this story.
St. Vincent will place children with gay couples if other agencies recommend the couple to serve as foster parents or those able to adopt. But the agency doesn’t want to be forced to evaluate a union that contradicts its religious teachings on marriage. This then also becomes a matter of free speech for St. Vincent as it does not want to be forced to issue a written report on the matter.
The problem with a culture war is that it puts everyone in a corner ready to fight. In a war, someone is there to win by harming or punishing the other. But the most vulnerable in this case are not the combatants, but the children who need caring parents.
A close look at this case shows some good will on both sides. But the fact that it’s in court sends it down a path that easily leads to a one-sided victory with tremendous collateral damage. Strong compromise emerges from legislatures where a more complete swath of a community is represented. Better yet, much of this pending battle could have been avoided by a willingness to come together and ask, what is best for the children?
When it comes to helping children find stable homes with loving parents, could this become a culture negotiation instead of a war? Could this become a culture of understanding, instead of a culture of conflict? Can the best of both sides come into the public square, work together, understand (if not accept) their differences, then get as many children as possible into caring arms?
We take a position that there is a place for faith in the public square as it motivates individuals toward good works and provides care for the most vulnerable in society. And we take a position that there should be a means of accomplishing fairness for all, even when differences exist.
The case will continue. But that doesn’t mean solutions cannot be found outside the courtroom when the focus is on helping the ones who truly need the help.