Adopting Children, Protecting Religious Liberty

By Clyde Chambliss

In 2014, there were around 400,000 children in the foster care system in America. Ten percent of those children had been in the system for more than five years. At a time when so many foster children need stable “forever homes,” it is imperative the state of Alabama allow faith-based adoption agencies to do their work unhindered by legal obstruction.

In the state of Massachusetts, the Catholic Charities of Boston had for more than one hundred years been a vital link between foster children and permanent families. Unfortunately, beginning in 2003, the state of Massachusetts began to require all private adoption agencies to adopt a policy of non-discrimination that included same-sex couples. What did that mean in practice? Well, private adoption agencies like the Catholic Charities of Boston were forced to either abandon their beliefs or close. If a private adoption agency refused to place children with same-sex couples, the state would revoke its state license. As Ryan Anderson and Sarah Torre document in “Adoption, Foster Care, and Conscience Protection,” the Charity was forced to shutter its ministry, rather than abandon the Christian teaching on marriage and the family.

Media elites in Hollywood and academia are often bent on attacking traditional Christian values as bigoted. Somehow, the contention that children fare best with a mother and father is backwards and hateful. There is a coordinated effort to attack the religious liberties of Christians (and all others who hold to mainstream views on the family) in the marketplace. But the First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and that right extends to faith-based adoption agencies.

Thankfully, the Alabama Senate has taken a common-sense step to protect the religious freedoms of adoption agency workers. We passed the Child Placing Inclusion Act, which forbids state agencies from discriminating against child-placing agencies because the agency declines to provide a child placement which conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider. Keep in mind that seventy percent of all placements are made by the Department of Human Resources, and by court ruling, state agencies cannot discriminate. However, a private, faith-based adoption agency should not be forced, at the risk of losing its government license, to place children in situations that are not consistent with their religious convictions.

There are so many children who are yearning for good homes. Given that close to thirty percent of adoptions in Alabama are facilitated through faith-based agencies, we need to encourage even more faith-based ministries to open their hearts and hands to foster children, and guard against petty bureaucratic attempts to squash the good work done by faith-based adoption agencies across Alabama.

Clyde Chambliss represents all or parts of Autauga, Elmore, Chilton, Coosa, and Tallapoosa Counties in the Alabama Senate. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative updates: @Clyde_SD30