Texas could let adoption agencies reject parents on religious grounds

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  May 8, 2017 at 8:20 AM
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May 8 (UPI) -- Texas lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a bill on Monday that would extend religious liberty protections to the child welfare system and allow adoption agencies to reject potential parents on religious grounds.

Texas' proposed bill -- House Bill 3859 -- states the government or anyone working with the state's child welfare system who operates within Texas under government authority are not allowed to "discriminate or take any adverse action," such as lawsuits, against adoption agencies that choose to "decline to provide, facilitate or refer a person for child welfare services" due to their "sincerely held religious beliefs."

Religious adoption agencies also would be allowed to refuse to provide or facilitate abortion services and contraception to teens under their care and could require children under their care receive religious education.

The bill includes a provision that would require the government to provide an alternative adoption agency if a person is rejected by a faith-based provider.

Those who oppose the bill say the law would allow agencies to discriminate against potential parents who are gay, single or belong to a religion deemed inappropriate by the placement agency.

"HB 3859 would allow child welfare service providers that contract with the state to use taxpayer money to discriminate against LGBT individuals and families in foster care, adoption and other services," the ACLU of Texas said in a statement. "It would also authorize providers to use religion to deny reproductive healthcare to a teen in their care, regardless whether the teen shares those religious beliefs."

Texas Republican Rep. James Frank, who authored the bill, wrote a Facebook post late Sunday in which he said Texas Child Protective Services faces challenges that faith-based adoption agencies could help alleviate.

Frank said faith-based agencies make up about 25 percent of all adoption agencies in the state.

"One of our biggest challenges is a lack of adequate, quality foster homes ... Unfortunately, the ability of many of the faith-based institutions to continue offering services is threatened by the prospect of litigation for declining to provide certain services (such as abortion) because of sincerely held religious beliefs," Frank wrote. "At a time when we need all hands-on deck, we face the real risk of seeing a large number of these providers leave the field, as they are forced to make the choice between devoting a substantial amount of resources in fighting litigation and other adverse action, or using those resources on other services to fulfill the tenets of their faith."

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