The House and Senate are out of session this week but will face a crucial religious freedom question when they both return. Last month the House Appropriations Committee adopted a pro-religious liberty amendment modeled after the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881, S.811) in its markup of the Labor-HHs appropriations bill. This legislation in no way excludes any eligible agency from providing child welfare services, including agencies who choose to adopt to LGBT parents or single parents; it simply prevents the government from infringing upon a faith-based agencies’ sincerely held religious beliefs. Over 437,000 children exist in the foster care system, and approximately 117,000 are currently eligible for adoption. Excluding providers based on religious values hurts these vulnerable children who are waiting and hoping to be placed in loving homes.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia made a desperate plea for more foster families to help care for hundreds of children needing homes, many coming into the system due to the opioid crisis plaguing the city. Days later, the city of Philadelphia halted all child placements through two of the top-performing agencies, Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services, because of their belief that children should be placed in a home with a mother and a father. A federal judge recently ruled that these religious charities must adhere to the government’s view of an eligible family, thus violating their sincerely held religious beliefs, in order to be eligible agencies. Philadelphia has forced two out of 30 agencies to close for not doing what the other 28 would do. This is why the Inclusion Act is so crucial; government discrimination against people of faith and agencies who represent them must end. This hurts mothers who want to place children in homes that align with her beliefs, it hurts children who are desperate for good homes, and it violates the foundation of our religious liberties as a nation.
Breaking new ground in the fight for religious freedom in Congress is possible, but won’t be easy. Opponents who view including faith-based agencies in any federal program as a threat to LGBT rights are waging an all-out assault against the measure included in the House appropriations bill. We need your voice to embolden members of Congress to stand up for the freedom of birthmothers and faith-based agencies to express their religious values without threat of government discrimination.