by Aaron Matthew Weldon
July 25, 2018St. James teaches: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world." This teaching has inspired the Church to build adoption and foster care ministries. These ministries are at risk in many parts of the United States, because some are insisting that our beliefs about family – namely, that children generally do best in a home with a married mother and father – are no longer acceptable.
The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act aims to protect these ministries. It was recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee, and now that it's making progress, myths and half-truths are getting some attention. Here are a few.
First, it is frequently suggested that same-sex couples are being prevented from adopting or fostering children. In fact, same-sex couples are legally allowed to adopt or foster children in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and there are agencies in every state that will place children with same-sex couples. The Inclusion Act would not change this. The Act simply allows faith-based providers to continue to operate with integrity.
Perhaps the key argument that some groups make is that allowing faith-based organizations to decline to place children with same-sex couples reduces the pool of parents who can adopt.
Indeed, these groups inadvertently admit that this claim is not true. They say that in states like Massachusetts and Illinois, the number of placements did not change after agencies like Catholic Charities were forced to end their services. Other studies have shown that placements did, in fact, go down, but let's set that point aside. If faith-based agencies impeded people from adopting, then removing faith-based agencies should have caused the number of placements to go up. But they did not go up, so clearly it cannot be argued that faith-based agencies are somehow preventing people from adopting and fostering children.
In reality, faith-based organizations often excel at recruiting adoptive and foster parents from their own faith communities. Suppressing faith-based providers, by allowing the government to discriminate against them, eliminates an important resource for expanding the pool of adoptive and foster parents. For example, in Arkansas, almost half of all foster families have been recruited by one Christian organization, The CALL. You simply don't recruit more parents by eliminating recruiters.
Finally, one of the most pernicious claims is that the Inclusion Act allows religious organizations to put their personal feelings over what is best for the child. In fact, everyone wants what they believe is best for the child, including birth mothers, who often choose to work with faith-based organizations because birth mothers want their child to be placed with families that shares their faith. But it should surprise no one that in a large, pluralistic society like the United States, there are different ideas about what is best for children. Catholic adoption providers that generally try to place children in homes with a married man and woman are not acting on mere personal feelings or what they like or dislike. They are acting on fundamental convictions about what is best for children. The government should not discriminate against them.
Aaron Matthew Weldon is Program Specialist for the Office of Religious Liberty.
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