MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Tuesday evening, Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) moved a proposal through the Alabama Senate to protect the religious freedom rights of individuals operating faith-based foster and adoption agencies. A key part of the Senate GOP’s “Strengthen Alabama” legislative agenda, Hightower’s proposal (co-sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo of Tuscaloosa) 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.
“In Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, faith-based adoption agencies have been forced to stop providing care for orphans because of requirements that violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs,” Hightower said. “Faith-based organizations in Alabama have a long history of providing orphans and neglected children with placement in new homes, and we need to protect those organizations so they can continue to serve families.”
Through the Department of Human Resources (DHR), the state licenses adoption agencies in Alabama. Hightower’s proposal preserves the religious liberty of faith-based adoption workers by ensuring the state will not discriminate against their religious convictions.
“Sen. Hightower and I have worked with DHR for the past year and a half, and this bill both protects religious liberty and ensures the safety of children waiting to be adopted,” said Rep. Wingo. “The worst thing that could happen would be for religious adoption and foster agencies to shut down – that would be catastrophic for Alabama’s children, not to mention the enormous financial burden it would place on DHR.”
“I commend Senator Hightower for his hard work on a bill that protects the religious liberties of all Alabamians,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said. “Senate Republicans are committed to preserving the fundamental rights that the Constitution guarantees, and we should never discourage faith-based adoption agencies from working to provide safe homes for needy children.”
While DHR places by far the majority of children in Alabama, at least thirty percent of adoptions in Alabama are facilitated through faith-based adoption agencies. Without these important community-based groups, hundreds of children would not find their “forever home.”
House Bill 24 now heads to the House of Representatives for concurrence, and then on to Governor Kay Ivey for signature.
Republican Senator Bill Hightower represents State Senate District 35, which includes parts of Mobile County. He serves as Chairman of the Constitution, Campaigns & Elections Committee.