Three U.S. Bishops Conference chairmen on Monday gave their support for First Amendment protections for faith-based foster care and adoption providers with legislation introduced that aims to ensure those institutions continue to receive funding.
The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2021 would prevent both the federal and state governments from taking action against a child welfare services provider that refuses to provide its service in a manner that violates its religious or moral principles.
In a letter of support to Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), who have introduced identical bills in their respective chambers last week, the chairmen noted that in states that include Massachusetts, Illinois, California, Philadelphia and New York some providers “have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers act on their belief that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father.”
“The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination, and maximize the benefit to thousands of children in need, by enabling all foster care and adoption providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers’ religious beliefs and moral convictions,” the chairmen wrote.
The letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa.
The Supreme Court is set to rule this year on a case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, that questions whether or not the state of Philadelphia can bar Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes for its policy of not licensing same-sex couples to be foster parents.
Catholic Social Services argues that its entitled to reject qualified same-sex couples on the basis that they’re same sex couples under their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and free speech.
Scott, who introduced the bill alongside 22 Republican contemporaries, highlighted in a statement that “faith-based foster care providers support the 400,000 children in our foster care.”
“At a time when religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions,” Scott said.
In his own statement Kelly said several state and local governments are requiring adoption agencies to “choose between helping kids and violating their religious faith.”
“This blatant attack on the First Amendment makes it even harder for children to find loving homes,” he continued. “We must stand up for kids, protect these organizations, and defend religious liberty.”
The USCCB committee chairmen also stressed the importance that the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act also respects the importance of parent’s choice in their letter to the legislators.
“Adoptive foster care parents, as well as women and men who want to place their children, ought to be able to choose an agency that shares their religious beliefs or convictions about the best interests of their children,” the letter reads.