Texas votes to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against non-Christians

Posted May 12, 2017

State Rep. James Frank, the bill's author, said it's created to address the state's foster care crisis by making "reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system".

Republican legislators say that the bill is necessary to protect Christian child welfare organizations.

Frank said faith-based agencies make up about 25 percent of all adoption agencies in the state.

Under House Bill 3859, which advanced on a 94-51 vote, providers would be protected from legal retaliation if they assert their "sincerely held religious beliefs" while caring for abused and neglected children.

Texas Republican Rep. James Frank, who authored the bill, wrote a Facebook post late Sunday in which he said Texas Child Protective Services faces challenges that faith-based adoption agencies could help alleviate.

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Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could soon be rejected by state-funded or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples.

Faith-based adoption agencies in the state include Christian Homes & Family Services, Generations Adoptions, Buckner International, ChristianWorks for Children, and Arrow Child & Family Ministries.

He also denied allegations that his bill would allow religious groups to impose "conversion therapy", which aims to turn gay people straight, or other harmful medical treatments on children.

The bill shields providers that decline to assist any potential foster or adoptive parent whose lifestyle might conflict with the groups' religious beliefs, meaning unmarried or divorced people could be refused services as well.

But Texas' bill is far more expansive than both of its predecessors because HB 3859 offers a broad definition of "child welfare services".

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Texas' legislation is bound to attract lawsuits and may not pass constitutional muster.

But without "requiring providers to provide advanced notice of what rights they will deny, this is impossible for CPS to do", the House Democratic Caucus said in a tweet responding to that claim.

"Right now I think our emphasis needs to be on finding quality families - regardless of whether they exactly fit with our own personal religious beliefs or denomination - but really focus on, 'Can they provide a good home for children?'" Redden said.

Nationally and locally, anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive rights advocates have strived to frame government oversight and enforcement of nondiscrimination protections as "discrimination". Jessica Farrar of Houston. But if they don't meet those standards, Statler said they'll refer parents to different agencies. A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously in 2015 but stalled in the House without reaching a floor vote. Additionally, HB 3859 would allow the agencies tasked by the state with caring for these children to put discrimination over the best interests of the child - they are allowed to refuse to provide services that children in care may desperately need, or subject children to care that is contrary to a child's best interest.

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