Lutheran denominations are facing a conundrum this week.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed LGBT inclusive policies in 2009, but denominations like the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church are firmly against LGBT people having rights in society or church—but they work together to implement a network of social agencies, some of which provide adoption and foster care programs.
In a recent case, FOX Chicago News reported that Fred Steinhauer and Matt Nalett wanted to adopt “Kenny,” but after clearing all hurdles and being open that they are a gay couple, they were handed a paper detailing a policy that does not allow gay people to foster or adopt children through Lutheran Child Family Services (LCFS).
Fred and Matt, together seven years, are legally married in Canada and took in “Kenny” a 15-year-old who Matt learned about through his work with a program for runaways. But, according to an Advocate report, Kenny wasn’t a runaway, he was a classic kid in the system, taken from his home because it was dangerous to him but shuffled through a string of foster and group homes. He became a runaway to get away from bullying by other kids in the system and identifies as gay.
Lutherans and state officials will have to weigh out which policies take precedent. GLAAD reached out to one of the accreditation agencies for LCFS and learned that such service groups are required to follow state and local non-discrimination policies. FOX Chicago News reported that the group receives millions of dollars from the state, and although the agency has discriminatory policies, religious groups get a pass from the state on requirements that go against church beliefs.
As a member of the Lutheran Church Service network, it remains to be seen if the possibility of having a coherent, inclusive policy, such as in the ELCA will impact the state’s understanding of what is allowable in discriminatory policies related to the divergent beliefs within and between faith traditions. Pew Research suggests 45 percent of members in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church support gay people compared to 56 percent in the ELCA although their official policies are polls apart.
GLAAD is reaching out to Fred and Matt to offer assistance with handling the media around this case.