WASHINGTON — Two Republican Congressmen have introduced a bill that would protect the religious rights of child welfare providers, such as adoption agencies and foster care services.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Sen. Mike Enzi introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act last week, a measure that would prevent the federal government, as well as state officials, from discriminating against providers because of their religious beliefs.
“The federal government, and any state that receives federal funding for any program that provides child welfare services under part B or part E of title IV of the Social Security Act (and any subdivision, office or department of such state) shall not discriminate or take an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” the bill reads.
The legislation also outlines that some states such as Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and the District of Columbia, “have refused to contract with religious organizations that are unable, due to sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions, to provide a child welfare service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with those beliefs or convictions.”
The Congressmen states that in some instances, religious organizations that have been shunned by the government have been essentially forced to discontinue providing child welfare services. Reports outline that in Illinois alone, Christian and Catholic welfare services were forced to discontinue serving over 2,000 children, simply because they believe youth should be placed in a home with a mother and father–not a homosexual “couple.” Similar circumstances likewise took place in the nation’s capital.
“Despite faith-based providers’ commendable record of compassion and care, some state and local governments have become more interested in enforcing political correctness than working towards the best interests of a child—even when the price for political correctness is seeing longstanding providers with outstanding track records shut down,” said Leanne Baumer of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. “When discrimination against faith-based organizations prevails, it is children who first and most directly suffer the consequences.”
While the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act speaks in generic terms and does not specifically cite homosexuality as its purpose for introduction, the Congressmen state that it is important to protect child welfare agencies from punishment.
“This bill is about fairness and inclusion. It is about ensuring that everyone who wants to help provide foster or adoptive care to children is able to have a seat at the table,” Rep. Kelly stated in a press release. “Faith-based organizations have historically played a downright heroic role in caring for our nation’s most vulnerable and needy kids. In so many ways their work is unparalleled. There is no good reason why any of these care providers should be disqualified from working with their government to serve America’s families simply because of their deeply-rooted religious beliefs.”
“Faith-based charities and organizations do an amazing job of administering adoption, foster care and a host of other services,” Enzi added. “Limiting their work because someone might disagree with what they believe only ends up hurting the families they could be bringing together.”
The legislation outlines that states that receive federal funds for child welfare services under the Social Security Act waive their sovereign immunity from legal liability. It therefore also allows for providers to sue in federal court if they believe that their religious rights have been infringed by the government.
There are over 1,000 private, faith-based foster care and adoption agencies across the country, many of which are based on James 1:7, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”