Last month, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017 (H.R. 1881 & S. 811). This legislation would prohibit the federal government, and state governments who receive certain federal funding, from discriminating against a child welfare service provider that serves families and children according to their "sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions." Child welfare providers, including private and faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, who believe every child deserves a mom and a dad would be fully protected under this bill.
Ryan Anderson, Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, and Sarah Torre, visiting fellow in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, write:
"There's no shortage of kids who need help. Every year about 400,000 children spend time in our nation's foster care system, with roughly 100,000 eligible for adoption. Many bounce from home to home and are never adopted. Many will "age-out" of foster care, facing increased risk for low academic achievement and poverty.
"The efforts of faith-based organizations and the work of more than 1,000 private, licensed foster care and adoption providers across the United States are helping to increase the number of children adopted every year. Private providers handle roughly a quarter of the domestic adoptions by non-relatives that occur in the United States. Faith-based agencies also provide spiritual, emotional and relational support to families that seek to adopt or become foster parents, which they are less likely to receive from state-run agencies."
Over the past few years, faith-based organizations who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman have been under attack. In 2014, then President Barack Obama bypassed Congress and issued an executive order elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to special protected status for the purpose of federal grants and contracts. In June 2015, the Supreme Court redefined marriage throughout the country by mandating government entities treat same-sex relationships as marriages.
Religious liberty advocates are hopeful President Trump will fulfill his campaign promise and reverse the Obama Administration's actions on religious liberty. But sadly, his most recent executive order on "free speech and religious liberty" fails to address the major threats to religious liberty, including protection for faith-based organizations who provide child welfare services.
While limited in scope, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would be a significant first step toward protecting the rights of organizations to carry out their services according to their religiously informed beliefs about marriage. Not only is this policy common sense, it is essential for the thousands of children who deserve stable homes and families.
Couples who would rather work with state-run agencies or providers without religious convictions are free to do so. This legislation would not prevent secular child welfare providers from continuing their valuable services in any way.
Summarizing the core argument for the bill, Ryan Anderson issued this statement:
"No adoption agency should be penalized by the state because they work to find children homes with a married mom and dad. Shutting down agencies or disqualifying them from government programs because they believe kids deserve both a mom and a dad does nothing to help children in need. All it does is score a point for LGBT activists using children as pawns in their culture war. We need as many adoption and foster care agencies working for kids as possible. But there is no need to force them to embrace LGBT orthodoxy."
The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act prioritizes children over politics. It protects and empowers Americans who have dedicated their lives to give the most vulnerable in our society—those without a family—the father and mother they deserve.
***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***