ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Senate passed a bill on Friday that protects the religious convictions of faith-based foster and adoption agencies.
S.B. 375 was approved 35-19 along party lines, without a single Democrat voting in favor of the legislation.
“To the extent allowed by federal law, including compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a child-placing agency may decline to accept a referral for foster care or adoption services under a contract with the department based on the child-placing agency’s sincerely-held religious beliefs,” the bill reads in part.
“For services not referred under a contract with the department, a child-placing agency may decline to perform any service that conflicts with the child-placing agency’s sincerely-held religious beliefs, and the department shall not cause any adverse action against such child-placing agency for declining to perform such service,” it states.
Supporters of the bill say that the measure would encourage more faith-based nonprofits to serve as foster placement agencies.
“The goal is to open as many doors as possible for those children that are in need of homes, and this bill will do that,” author Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We think faith-based agencies deserve to have the constitutional protection that they need in order to carry out their mission statements,” also explained Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, who serves as a lobbyist.
Co-sponsors of S.B. 375 include Sens. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro; Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega; David Schafer, R-Duluth; Greg Kirk, R-Americus; Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga; Bill Heath, R-Bremen; and Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, among others.
Opponents of the legislation assert that the bill is unnecessary and is discriminatory toward homosexuals.
“Why in the world do we need this statute?” Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, remarked. “The language of the statute … tends to put these adoption agencies before the best interests of the child.”
“I don’t know why an entire political party wants to proudly carry the brand of being hateful,” Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, and the Democratic Caucus secretary, claimed.
Some also posit that the move could hurt the state economy as corporations that support homosexual causes might not want to do business in Georgia as a result.
The bill will now move to the House for consideration. It is not yet known whether Republican Gov. Nathan Deal will sign the legislation. As previously reported, in 2016, Deal, who attends a Baptist church, vetoed a similar religious liberty bill that provided conscience protections for pastors and nonprofit faith-based organizations, stating that the protections provided under the First Amendment are sufficient.
“[The Founding Fathers] had previously proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that man’s Creator had endowed all men ‘with certain unalienable rights,’ including ‘liberty,’ which embraces religious liberty,” he said. “They made it clear that those liberties were given by God and not by man’s government. Therefore, it was unnecessary to enumerate in statute or constitution what those liberties included.”
Psalm 24:3-5 reads, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
Jesus also said in Matthew 12:50, “[W]hosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.”