House committee moves to protect religious adoption agencies

By Christine Rousselle

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The House Appropriations Committee moved to protect the conscience rights and religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies on Wednesday.

The committee adopted an amendment to an upcoming funding bill that would preserve federal funding for agencies who do not want to place children with same-sex couples.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). In a statement published on his website, Aderholt said that the opioid epidemic has caused the number of foster care cases to “skyrocket,” and that religious charities are needed to assist with this crisis.

However, “several states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian services, to operate child welfare agencies,” due to their refusal to place children with same-sex couples, in accord with their religious beliefs.

Alderholt said this amendment will aim to prevent religious discrimination against those agencies. The amendment mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services withhold 15 percent of federal funds for child welfare services in states that do not allow religiously-based child welfare agencies to operate in accordance with their beliefs.

Faith-based agencies in several states have had to shut down their adoption divisions because they did not want to violate their religious beliefs.

Catholic Charities of the Boston archdiocese ceased handling adoptions in Massachusetts in 2006, a little less than two years after the state legalized same-sex marriage. Catholic Charities in California followed suit later that year. In 2011, Catholic Charities of Illinois also stopped handling adoption cases.

In Illinois, about 2,000 children were displaced when Catholic Charities shut down, forcing other agencies to take on their cases.

The city of Philadelphia is being sued by several foster mothers after it stopped working with Catholic Social Services to place foster children. While Catholic Social Services would not place children with a same-sex couple, no same-sex couple ever made a complaint about the agency before its relationship with the city was severed.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused Republicans of pushing a “bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda” that could result in children being without homes.

In a statement released July 11, she pledged to fight the “disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort,” and said there was “no place for bigotry.”

This, says Heritage Foundation Research Assistant Melanie Israel, is falsehood.

"The other side is falsely saying that this prevents LGBT couples from adopting. That's not true," said Israel. "They are still welcome to foster and adopt from a plethora of agencies, in particular the state-run agencies, and even some faith-based agencies. Not all faith-based agencies take issue with placing children outside of a home with a married mom and dad."

Faith-based agencies can play a supportive role for a child’s birth-mother as well, said Israel. These women, and families that are seeking to foster and adopt, “deserve the chance to be able to work with an agency that’s going to share their faith, and their values.”

“For many birth-moms, the decision to give a child up for adoption, it's a very loving decision, it's a very brave decision, but it's also very scary,” she said.

A faith-based agency could provide assistance to her spiritual needs in addition to anything else that would arise during the adoption process, and could provide assurance that the child would go to a family with a similar set of values, Israel added.


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