February 16, 2012
On behalf of Interfaith Alliance’s more than 185,000 members nationwide, I write to ask your support for and co-sponsorship of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) (S. 1770). Interfaith Alliance’s support for ECDF and similar legislation is rooted in our commitment to religious freedom, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and preventing the abuse of religion by letting it be used as a justification for discrimination.
This necessary legislation would prohibit private social service providers conducting adoptions through the government child services system from discriminating against potential parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. It is important to note that this bill only affects the public adoption system—faith-based organizations would still maintain the religious freedom to place children in families that support their religious beliefs when conducting private adoptions.
The principles behind Interfaith Alliance’s support for this legislation stem from our work to bring the faith-based initiative in line with the Constitution and to prohibit taxpayer-funded religious discrimination. There is no right answer to the question of “what makes a family,” and religious organizations have every right to base their answer on their theological beliefs. But by requiring social service organizations (faith-based or otherwise) to play by the same rules when placing children through the public government child services system, this legislation would ensure that government policies are not determined on the basis of one religion’s definition of what constitutes a family.
Interfaith Alliance respects that a faith-based organization conducting private adoptions with private dollars should have the religious freedom to decide not to place a child with a single-parent or same-gender couple if that is consistent with the values of the faith that guides it. However, under the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, if that organization decides to work within the government adoption and foster care system, taking taxpayer dollars to do so, it cannot discriminate against those seeking to adopt based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
Those who condemn homosexuality because of religious beliefs claim that their religious freedom should trump anti-discrimination laws. Faith-based agencies that facilitate private adoptions without funding from government of course have more leeway in using criteria in line with their faith traditions to evaluate prospective adoptive parents. Yet, agencies that are licensed and funded by taxpayer dollars should not be exempted from civil rights laws. Our government is responsible for ensuring equal treatment under the law – especially by the agencies it licenses and regulates.
As I have said on countless occasions in the context of the faith-based initiative, if a religious organization wishes to preserve its ability to make decisions based solely on its religious beliefs, it must maintain private status. When a religious organization takes federal funds, it must play by the same rules as every other organization and government adoption policies should be uniform from state to state, which they currently are not. This kind of discrimination represents an appalling disrespect for the United States Constitution. Not only does it represent a setback in civil rights provisions, it also threatens to compromise the integrity of religion.
It is unconscionable that thousands of children awaiting adoption or in foster care will continue to wait if we allow federally-funded agencies to turn prospective parents and caregivers away because they are Jewish, Muslim, Democrats, Republicans, gay, straight, old or young.
Thank you for your consideration.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.