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In a victory for religious freedom, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is preparing to sign a bill that will permit faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children into situations that violate their religious beliefs.
The Freedom to Serve Children Act: a victory for religious freedom
Texas House Bill 3859, also called “The Freedom to Serve Children Act” , is a landmark bill, among the first of its kind in the U.S. The bill will allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children into family situations that violate the agency’s religious tenants. A Jewish Adoption Agency, for example, may now refuse to place a jewish infant with a family who intends to raise the child as a Christian. Similarly, a Christian adoption agency may now refuse to place a child with an unmarried couple, or a gay couple.
Nearly a quarter of Texas’ adoption agencies are faith-based organizations
Nearly a quarter of Texas’ adoption agencies are faith-based organizations. Many have ceased placing children altogether due to fears of legal harassment by LGBT groups. The bill will provide protection for those agencies and permit them to resume adoption services within their faith-based communities.
Buckner International, for example, is an evangelical charity based in Dallas, Texas. The charity provides services to more than 1,000 Texas children every year. The group stopped providing adoption and foster care cases in 2015 because of the threat of lawsuits from LGBT groups. Buckner now plans to resume its adoption and foster care program after the bill is signed into law.
Under the new bill, adoption agencies and foster agencies will be permitted to refuse services if such services violate “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Texas Representative James Frank, the bill’s author, notes that the bill does require adoption agencies, who refuse on religious grounds, to refer the parties to another agency.
Reaction to the bill predictably divided along party lines
Predictably, reaction to the bill has been sharply divided along party lines. Conservatives hail the bill as a victory for religious freedom. Liberals see the bill as state-sanctioned discrimination.
Headlines from liberal news media read like a preview of an apocalyptic disaster movie. Not surprisingly, most of the headlines omit the key point; that these are private faith-based organizations who have been threatened for years because of the exercise of their religious beliefs. Conservative and faith-based news sources, however, have made a point of explaining the bill’s intent and its applicable results:
Showing broad (i.e. purposefully misleading) headline
“Texas House OKs bill letting adoption groups deny non-Christians”
“Texas bill allows adoptions to be rejected on religious grounds”
“Texas Senate Approves ‘Religious Refusal’ Adoption Measure”
Showing important key-word in headline
The Daily Signal:
“Bill Protecting Faith-Based Adoption Agencies in Texas on Way to Governor’s Desk”
Catholic News Agency:
“Stronger religious freedoms in Texas could boost Catholic foster care”
“Texas adoption law could push Christian agencies to resume activities”
The Facts: HB 3859 protects everyone, not simply Christians
House Bill 3859 protects faith-based private agencies from violating their sincerely-held beliefs. The bill does NOT dictate which beliefs are acceptable and which are not.
The bill, for example, would protect both a Christian-based adoption charity in San Antonio, and a LGBT-based foster organization in Houston. Under the bill, neither can be forced to violate their sincerely-held beliefs when placing a child.
“If you have an LGBT agency they’re going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family. They’re free to do that and should be free to do that.” – Rep James Frank, HB 3859 author
The bill’s author, Rep James Frank, noted this dual-protection, “We want to make reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system.” Frank also noted that the adoption industry is a free-market industry. Couples are free to find an agency willing to work with them and to accommodate their particular faith. Where the welfare of children is concerned, Frank noted, it’s a very personal choice.
“My guess is if you have an LGBT agency they’re going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family,” Frank said. “They’re free to do that and should be free to do that.”
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Keywords: adoption agencies, James Frank, religious beliefs, religious freedom, Texas.