WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) have cosponsored the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, a bill to protect the rights of child welfare charities to operate without the fear of discrimination based on religious beliefs. The bill was introduced in the Senate this week by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and in the House by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa).
For decades, adoption and foster care providers—secular, government-operated and faith-based—have worked side-by-side to serve infants, expectant mothers, adoptive and foster families, children, teens, and families that are in need of help. Unfortunately, some states, including Illinois and Massachusetts, prevent faith-based organizations from providing welfare services because of their religious beliefs. The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would prevent providers of child welfare services from being excluded by states from offering welfare services based on their religious beliefs.
“By deliberately discriminating on religious grounds and preventing faith-based groups from providing welfare services—including adoption and foster care—some states are in violation of the First Amendment’s right to religious liberty,” said Inhofe. “Faith-based institutions often play a vital role in the adoption process, whether by providing counseling or valuable resources. As long as we have children in need of assistance or a family, we should be ensuring that all organizations that want to help can. The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act will ensure that the services faith-based groups provide are available throughout the nation.”
“The First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of religion is a right that extends to all faiths and all peoples and all organizations,” said Lankford. “True diversity is to respect the views and conscience of all without forcing one belief system on everyone. Unfortunately, some localities have sought to stifle the rights of Americans based on their belief system, and to discriminate based on faith. The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act is needed to allow all child welfare nonprofits to provide desperately-needed services in a way that is in line with their values. To address our foster care and adoption crisis, we need as many child welfare organizations as possible working to place children in loving homes.”
“Whether providing adoption services, foster care work or counseling for children, faith-based organizations shouldn’t have to worry that they will be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. This type of discrimination hurts the families and children who rely on these organizations most of all,” said Enzi. “This legislation will help ensure faith-based providers and individuals can continue to work alongside other agencies and organizations and that adoptive and foster parents have access to the provider of their choice.”
Adoption and foster care is intensely personal and emotional for all those concerned. All participants, infants, children, teens, and families involved have benefited from having a range of service options to best suit their emotional, spiritual, and financial needs and circumstances.