Faith-based adoption agencies in Texas have gained new protections under a law just signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott, a Republican, signed the Freedom to Serve Children Act on June 15. Among other initiatives, the measure will ensure the government does not force adoption providers to act in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.
The new law, House Bill 3859, was passed by the Texas legislature last month. It “protects religious liberty rights for religious child welfare service providers, such as foster parents and adoption providers… It [ensures] that the government does not discriminate against them if a provider declines to facilitate or participate in a child welfare service that conflicts with their sincerely held religious belief,” as Justin Butterfield, senior counsel at religious-freedom law firm First Liberty Institute, told LifeZette in May.
The law also protects them “if they provide a religious education or if they decline to facilitate or provide an abortion,” said Butterfield.
Jonathan Saenz, president of the non-profit Texas Values, a family policy council, declared that Abbott’s signing of this law is a “major victory for children and for religious liberty.”
“One-fourth of all foster care agencies in Texas are faith-based, but there has been a trend nationally of religious placement organizations closing as the result of being forced to deny their beliefs,” according to Texas Values. “Because of the crisis in state-run foster care, faith-based providers have been asked to do more to help care for foster children.”
Texas Values is associated with the Family Policy Alliance. The latter is a public policy partner of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization.
“Before [the Freedom to Serve Children Act], state law did not protect [foster care groups] from being targets of grant discrimination or litigation,” Texas Values noted in a press release.
The legislation “protects religious liberty rights for people of all faiths and ensures that they don’t have to choose between following their faith and serving children,” First Liberty’s Butterfield told LifeZette last month.
Yet everyone sees it that way. “Prioritizing the religious beliefs of organizations who care for children over the religious beliefs, and human rights, of children, the bill will allow child welfare services to place LGBTQ children under their care into ‘religious education’ that demonizes them or undermines their self-worth,” the left-leaning news blog Think Progress reported last week.
Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of a new book, “Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination,” argued that the law protects diversity and inclusion.
“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,” Anderson told LifeZette by email last month. “All it does is score a point for LGBT activists [who are] 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,” Anderson added.
Christians ministries can prepare for the future with a sound mind.
“Our ministries throughout the state are actively seeking new ways to be of service to the children of Texas and welcome all people of goodwill to join us in these endeavors,” Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, said in a statement.