Christian adoption agencies in Texas are awaiting their governor’s signature on a new law safeguarding the option to use faith-based requirements in placing children in adoptive and foster homes.
About a quarter of child welfare providers in the Lone Star State are religiously affiliated groups. But over the past few years, these organizations began to reduce their involvement, fearing legal backlash over policies that restrict prospective parents by faith, sexuality, or marital status. Almost all Catholic Charities offices in the state have stopped taking on children in state custody, as have groups like Buckner International, an evangelical charity based in Dallas.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s signature on the law, which passed in the state legislature last week, would give them the go-ahead to resume and expand their efforts.
The Lone Star State would become the second in the country to authorize state-funded agencies to discriminate on the basis of their “sincerely-held religious beliefs,” amid ongoing efforts to balance faith convictions and LGBT rights.
South Dakota passed similar protections in March. Five other states—including Alabama, which adopted its law earlier this month—allow agencies to put forth faith-based restrictions, but not if they receive public dollars.
Texas’ Democratic minority in the state legislature, as well as LGBT advocates, opposed the bill as a means to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples or those from minority religious groups. But supporters hold that such families still have plenty of options for adoption. Texas Representative James Frank, who authored the bill, said agencies who turn away prospective parents would be required to refer them to another provider in the area.
Since Christian agencies are open about their affiliation and often recruit through churches, they have rarely had to refuse gay or lesbian applicants. But they have seen cases in other states, and have worried what would happen if the situation came up in Texas.
“More than 80 percent of our couples come from the church, and they do this out of their sense of calling. That’s the kind of family we want,” said Randy Daniels, vice president of child and family services at Buckner, which requires prospective parents be churchgoing Christians that have been married for at least four years. “We don’t want to be forced into this place of Texas requiring agencies to place children with same-sex couples.”
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SOURCE: Christianity Today – Kate Shellnut