Now Texas lawmakers, even more emboldened by the Trump administration, are getting ready to vote on a bill that will allow adoption agencies to reject parents they object to based on religious reasons. Opponents of the bill point out this includes parents who are single, gay, or of a different religion.
The bill also allows agencies to refuse abortion and contraception to teens under their care; it lets faith-based agencies send children to religious schools. All of this is done under the same expression we have heard time and again: “Sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Called the “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” Texas’ House Bill 3859 extends religious liberty protections to providers within Texas’ child welfare system, allowing them to decline services to individuals based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The vote on the bill was originally planned for Saturday but has been rescheduled for Monday. (KSAT)
The main issue here is these agencies, for foster care and adoption, receive money from the state. Therefore, the state government is paying for them to discriminate against LGBTQ persons and to provide religious education; they can also impose a variety of other doctrine upon children and families involved in their care. The separation of church and state is not even a pretend entity anymore.
It is a concern this will displace even more potential families from a system that is already extremely short on families to take in at-need children.
“It’s about as limiting a bill as we have seen,” Terri Burke, executive director for ACLU Texas, told CNN.“You say you have a sincerely held religious belief and you are a private adoption agency or private entity that helps place foster children — you can say you will not place that child with gay parents …. If I’m Catholic I can say I don’t want any Baptists to raise the child,” Burke said.
However, the bill’s author argues the opposite.
Frank argues that, without legal protection, those organizations may shut down child welfare services entirely and thereby worsen the “critical shortage of foster homes” in Texas.The bill also includes a “secondary services” provision that “specifically requires the state to ensure that alternate providers are available to offer any services that a faith-based provider declines to provide due to religious conflicts,” according to his office’s statement.
Hopefully even if this passes, it will be overturned, but that is a long road. There is no way to predict how many children and families will be adversely affected by the law in the meantime. Texas has a long and sordid history of passing restrictive religious laws and spending millions to defend them, all the way to the Supreme Court. It is hard to imagine this one will be any different.