Three years ago I took a critical view of the trend in many states and cities toward excluding from publicly funded adoptive placement of kids in public care relatively conservative religious agencies that decline to handle placements to families outside their belief group, to non-traditional families such as same-sex couples and single parents, or both. In recent years the ACLU and like-minded groups have stepped up the pressure with lawsuits in states like Michigan aimed at excluding these groups from access to public money unless they take all kinds of families.
Now a bill called the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881/S.B. 811), passed by the House of Representatives as a rider on the pending Labor/HHS appropriations bill, would prohibit states from taking adverse action against foster care and adoption agencies on the grounds that they refuse to engage in referrals, placements or other services that conflict with their religious or moral convictions. States found to have violated the rule would be subject to loss of 15 percent of their federal child welfare funding. The rule broadly prohibits “discriminating or taking an adverse action against” agencies and would give agencies broad legal remedies including attorneys’ fees.
I haven’t had a chance yet to review all the details of the bill, which in any case would need approval of the Senate and President before becoming law. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have papers in favor of the measure and Human Rights Campaign against.
In the mean time a well reported, balanced piece by Gillian Friedman on the controversy mentions tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Cato conference in D.C. on adoption policy [Deseret News; more/related, Bobby Ross, Jr., Religion News Service in March] The panel on this subject leads off the conference, and includes Assistant Professor Stephanie Barclay of the J. Reuben Clarke School of Law at Brigham Young University; Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director at the Human Rights Campaign; Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois College of Law; and me.