Home Living Today Culture Forcing Faith-Based Organizations Out of Foster Care and Adoption Hurts Children by Elizabeth Kirk

Forcing Faith-Based Organizations Out of Foster Care and Adoption Hurts Children by Elizabeth Kirk

5 min read

Driving out those child welfare providers that have been at the forefront of caring for children for centuries fails to respect the rich and diverse religious pluralism of our nation. Their absence will not benefit same-sex couples, but it will harm children.

What does a bigot look like?  According to a recent ad created by the Movement Advancement Project (“MAP”), bigots are lurking in child welfare organizations disguised as seemingly normal social workers. Beneath their kind exteriors, these people conceal a dark agenda to force gay or transgender children into conversion therapy, to impose corporal punishment with a leather belt, and to allow children to languish in foster care rather than be adopted by gay couples. The ad concludes with the dire warning, “When states allow decisions to be based on a worker’s individual beliefs, rather than the best interests of children, it’s children who pay the price.”

What is going on here? Are rogue child welfare workers stealthily imposing private prejudices on the children in their care?

In short: no. In reality, the situation is something quite guileless. In the wake of Obergefell, and given the increasing number of sexual orientation non-discrimination laws, many states (including Michigan, Virginia, Texas, and South Dakota) have passed legislation to make clear that faith-based child welfare organizations may continue to provide services to families and children as they always have done, without sacrificing religious beliefs, such as the notion that the best placement for a child is with a married mother and father. This belief is indeed a theological one, but it is also an anthropological one, supported by millennia of human experience, and a scientific one, supported by sound, contemporary social science.

Equating traditional views on marriage with racism, MAP and its allies find laws protecting faith-based organizations morally repugnant and claim that they are unconstitutional. In support of their position, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Michigan’s statute, arguing that private agencies that perform a public function through a government contract (i.e., providing foster care and adoption services for children in the foster care system) may not discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation. The legal argument permitting generous religious exemptions is a well-worn one, and similar protections have long been upheld. Nevertheless, legal intimidation has worked well; some of the nation’s oldest child welfare providers voluntarily ceased adoption and foster care services in Illinois, Boston, and San Francisco in the face of legislation with no conscience protections.

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