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  • Virginia Protects Religious Liberty in Adoption and Foster Care

    Virginia residents witnessed a significant victory for religious liberty this week. On Wednesday, Virginia’s State Board of Social Services voted 7–2 to reject a controversial policy that could have forced faith-based institutions to abandon their beliefs and cost Virginia many effective adoption agencies. Governor Bob McDonnell (R) is expected to approve the regulations.

    The proposed changes to the regulations would have added sexual orientation, family status, age, religion, and other characteristics to the state’s family services nondiscrimination policy, prohibiting any adoption agency in Virginia from considering those attributes in prospective adoptive parents. Refusing to abide by this or any other adoption and foster care regulation would result in an agency losing its state-issued license to place children for adoption in Virginia. A religiously affiliated agency that believes children thrive in married households with both mom and dad would have been forced to either renounce its moral beliefs or shut its doors.

    The proposed changes would have threatened the religious liberty of adoption agencies, effectively banning many faith-based family service organizations with tragic consequences for the thousands of Virginia children waiting for adoption. In 2002, the latest year for which data is available, roughly 80 percent of Virginia’s 2,121 adoptions were facilitated by private organizations or through direct placement. Forty-two of the nearly 60 state-approved private adoption agencies have a particular religious affiliation.

    A public comment period on the proposed regulations afforded a glimpse into the consequences of alienating faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. As Teresa McDonough, director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Arlington, wrote: “We feel this does not allow faith-based agencies to follow their beliefs in regard to sexual orientation, religion and family status when approving families for foster care and adoption, thereby impacting their ability to continue to operate in this state.”

    Likewise, Brian Luwis, CEO of America World Adoption, which is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, commented, “As a Christian adoption agency … we fear that this regulation, if implemented in its current form, could put our agency in conflict with licensing standards and endanger our ability to serve children.”

    According to the Washington Times review of the 1,000-plus public comments on the proposed regulations, the vast majority of respondents took issue with the addition of “sexual orientation” to the nondiscrimination policy, while just over 30 respondents viewed the change positively.

    Similar unintended consequences have resulted from broadly defined nondiscrimination policies in other localities. In the wake of legalizing same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, both jurisdictions sacrificed the vast and important work of local Catholic archdioceses in helping place foster children in loving homes. The new same-sex marriage laws and previous sexual orientation policies pitted legal statutes against the organizations’ teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that children deserve the unique benefits provided by both a mother and a father.

    Absent robust religious exemptions, government redefinition of civil institutions like the family often forces religious organizations to choose between providing services or forfeiting their convictions on bedrock moral issues. As Heritage visiting fellow Thomas Messner writes in recent research:

    When civil liability or equal access to government benefits depends on private citizens adopting the “official” state position on controversial moral issues, the potential for infringement of religious liberty and rights of conscience is clear.

    Differences over moral issues of great weight are not likely to end soon. Whenever government has a regulatory or funding interest in such issues, policymakers should be careful to provide full protection for and encouragement of the religious liberty of organizations whose work advances civil society.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Virginia Protects Religious Liberty in Adoption and Foster Care

    1. Erwin Brady says:

      On one hand, I am very encouraged that people were wise enough to do the right thing on this matter. I have been studying religious liberty for a while. So I saw a lot of what I studied in this article.

      On the other hand, it bothers me a lot to see the Christian community make religious liberty a much, much, much lower priority of an issue to be aware of and deal with. I pray more Christians will wise up and deal with this issue more. We have already paid a heavy price in this country for not dealing with it enough, and things will get worse if we don't start truly opening our eyes to this issue.

      • Juan Martinez says:

        Erwin, I don't think you can view the christian community as a single monolothic group. In reality, americans who call themselves christians are a very diverse. Some are apoplectic about having their religious liberty stripped away by the Obama administration, whereas others feel things haven't changed much at all during the past decade or two or are satisfied with how things are. Some even think that religion intrudes into government policy too much. It's all over the map, you know.

    2. Larry Welch, Idaho says:

      Mr Brady's comment is to the point. The US Dept of Health and Human Services is pushing hard to establish nationwide the destructive policies that Virginia has just prevented.

    3. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Hell is, the Attempt will continue in other States and at other times! Our new Secular Humanist State Religion will keep on eroding our Religious Freedoms in the hundred other ways! All of them being accomplished with Public Money! I am happy that we won some Rights of Conscience, but I am not giddy about it! The Obama Administration is doing everything in its considerable Power (and in it's Unconstitutional Power) to undermine every damned American Value!

      I don't think the assault on American Values will stop unless we Impeach and also Impeach the Conspiracy! What conspiracy? The One In Plain Sight! The Conspiracy that got a bunch of Domestic Enemies elected to Office based on a spoils system. Obama used ACORN to bring down the American Housing Industry! They just call ACORN something else, but it is still there and still wrecking the economy by intimidating Banks to make bad loans! I think the dialog has been framed so that all the Republican Victories will be Hollow Victories!

      Even when Progressives lose the Case, they never stop! They will never stop til somebody actually stops them. You can't stop them unless you Impeach and write a Conspiracy Article of Impeachment! Otherwise you get the backfire that was the Clinton Impeachment! It didn't work because they never touched the Co Conspirators! Big Victory! Congress voted to NOT Regulate Carbon Dioxide! So then, Obama does whatever he wants, he makes the EPA Regulate Carbon! Crazy! A non poisonous 'pollutant!' They just want to destroy American Energy! There is no other answer! There is no reasonable reason!

    4. Daniel McCormick says:

      We are the United States of America not the United State. The rights reserved to the states are a fortress of protection against the overreaching of the federal government and its bureaucracy. We must do all we can to protect that fortress, to keep its walls strong and its gates secure; that through its protection we may then wage battle with the forces that deny we are a republic of 50 empowered states.

    5. Pingback: FRC Blog » The Social Conservative Review: April 28, 2011

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