Three committee chairmen of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference are strongly supporting a new bill that protects the conscience rights of child welfare agencies. “As you know, our 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,” stated the letter from the bishops to the lawmakers who introduced the bill, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). “Rightly, the Inclusion Act protects the religious liberties and moral convictions of all child welfare providers.” The letter was authored by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. The proposed bill, The Child Welfare Inclusion Act, would ensure that adoption and foster care agencies cannot be denied contracts or grants from states and the federal government simply because of their religious beliefs. In Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Illinois, and California, faith-based agencies have been denied federally-funded contracts because they will only match children with a mother and a father. According to the Daily Signal, some 2,000 children were displaced from their original adoption and foster care agencies when a combination of state laws forced Illinois religious organizations to end their contracts with the state rather than place children with same-sex couples. The bishops maintained that parents should be able to choose from many different child welfare agencies, including those that honor marriage as the union of man and woman. “Indeed, 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,” they said. Refusing contracts to those agencies hurts both the children and couples, said Sen. Mike Enzi, who helped sponsor the bill in the Senate. “Faith-based charities and organizations do an amazing job of administering adoption, foster care and a host of other services,” he said in a July 30 statement. “Limiting their work because someone might disagree with what they believe only ends up hurting the families they could be bringing together.” “This bill is about fairness and inclusion,” said Rep. Mike Kelly who introduced it in the House. “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.”
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