Oklahoma House Panel Advances Bill Protecting Religious Convictions of Foster, Adoption Agencies

Photo Credit: Teresa Howes

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — An Oklahoma House panel has advanced a bill that protects the religious convictions of faith-based foster and adoption agencies, in that they may decline to place children in certain households if the arrangement would violate the tenets of their faith.

“To the extent allowed by federal law, no private child-placing agency receiving neither federal nor state funds shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies,” reads SB 1140.

The bill was presented by Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Travis Dunlap, R-Bartlesville, and has already cleared the Senate 35-9.

“When we see this protection go into place, we see increased child placements,” Dunlap told reporters.

The proposal has received support from various faith-based groups in the state, including the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“As Oklahoma Baptists, we want to voice our strong support of Senate Bill 1140, which we believe is necessary to protect the religious liberty of faith-based adoption providers in Oklahoma,” Executive Director Hance Dilbeck told the Tulsa Beacon. “Faith-based organizations have been on the leading edge of providing hope and good homes for children in need of adoption or foster care.”

He and retiring director Anthony Jordan wrote to lawmakers to explain their position.

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“We have been alarmed and outraged to learn of threats to the religious liberty and moral convictions of faith-based agencies in other parts of the country, such as Massachusetts,” they wrote. “In Oklahoma, now is the time to ensure equal opportunity and protection for individuals and groups involved in foster care and adoption. Indeed the very survival and future of such organizations depends upon it.”

“Southern Baptists in Oklahoma have a long history of involvement in adoption and caring for children in need of homes,” they said.

Homosexual advocacy groups have decried the bill as having the silent intent to keep homosexuals from adopting any children.

“Essentially, if this bill passes, adoption agencies could decide whether or not to adopt out, or foster out, to LGBT people, to single people, to members of minority faiths. This is a bill that hurts children and discriminates along the way,” Allie Shinn of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma told the Associated Press.

“You absolutely have the right to your own deeply held religious beliefs. You do not have the right to use your deeply held religious beliefs as a weapon to discriminate, and that’s exactly what Senate bill 1140 would do,” she stated.

Treat and Dunlap say that the bill doesn’t impede anyone, as residents have other options besides approaching Christian or Catholic organizations for adoption and forcing them to violate their convictions. The legislation, they state, simply allows faith-based organizations to operate in accordance with their very purpose and mission without government punishment.

“This doesn’t eliminate anyone that can currently participate. All it does is it opens it up for others to participate and protects those that may have a faith-based group to continue to participate,” Treat stated.

It is not clear whether or not Gov. Mary Fallin would sign the legislation if passed.

British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Avoid the appearance of evil. ‘But we must not be too rigid,’ says one. There is no fear of that in these days. You will never go too far in holiness, nor become too like your Lord Jesus. If anybody accuses you of being too strict and precise, do not grieve, but try to deserve the charge.”

“I cannot suppose that at the last great day, our Lord Jesus Christ will say to everyone, ‘You were not worldly enough. You were too jealous over your conduct, and did not sufficiently conform to the world.’ No, my brethren, such a wrong is impossible. He who said, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect,’ has set before you a standard beyond which you can never go.”

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