WASHINGTON — Two lawmakers July 30 introduced a measure they say is needed to protect faith-based agencies that provide adoption and foster care services from discrimination based on their religious beliefs.
U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania, introduced companion bills titled the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014.
“This bill is about fairness and inclusion. It is about ensuring that everyone who wants to help provide foster or adoptive care to children is able to have a seat at the table,” Kelly said in a statement.
“Faith-based charities and organizations do an amazing job of administering adoption, foster care and a host of other services,” said Enzi. “Limiting their work because someone might disagree with what they believe only ends up hurting the families they could be bringing together.”
The chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said July 31 they support the measure: San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
In separate letters to Kelly and Enzi, the three archbishops said the nation’s “first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of our most vulnerable – children.”
They emphasized the importance of parental choice in choosing adoption and foster care services.
“Women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions,” the prelates said.
As the Enzi-Kelly bill notes, most religious organizations cannot provide certain child welfare services without receiving a license and funds from the government, and most states provide government-funded child welfare services through various religious, charitable and private organizations.
The text of the bill does not specify what laws might conflict with the religious tenets of the service providers. However, in some states faith-based agencies have been forced to drop out of the adoption business because they could not get an exemption from regulations requiring agencies contracting with the state not to discriminate against same-sex couples who seek to adopt children.
Congress began a five-week summer break Aug. 1 and it was uncertain when the bill would move forward.