The two sides are clearly defined and represented by two separate pieces of legislation. One party fights for protection of religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The other demands acceptance and tolerance by all groups who receive federal funding.
Below is a summary of each bill and what they mean for Christians.
Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 (H.R. 5285/S. 2706)
This bill protects adoption and foster care organizations from discrimination by state and federal officials because of sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral convictions. It also provides a basis for groups whose rights have been violated to take legal action against state and/or federal officials.
In other words, officials can’t deny funding and other necessary aid to groups like Bethany Christian Services simply because they adhere to biblical principles.
“It’s important because we not only want to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child, but also the spiritual needs,” explains Bill Blacquiere, Bethany President and CEO.
Some of those principles include God’s definition of marriage: union between one man and one woman. Opponents say the bill is just a cover for faith-based groups to stop gay adoption.
In reality, faith-based groups are the ones facing discrimination. According to Blacquiere and the wording of H.R. 5285, religious adoption and foster care organizations in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia have been forced to stop their work.
Officials in these states wouldn’t work with the groups unless they agreed to place children in same-sex households.
“Bethany feels that it’s very important when we place children…that the family be legally married. Some states are saying, ‘That’s discriminatory. People don’t have to be married; they just have to have a stable relationship,'” says Blacquiere.
“[The bill] doesn’t discriminate against any group. It just simply says that faith-based organizations should be able to operate by their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 2028/S. 1069)
Opponents of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 point to H.R. 2028 as a more favorable option. Known as the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” this piece of legislation requires all adoption and foster care agencies to provide their services to homosexual couples.
- Bars any group receiving federal assistance from discriminating against prospective parents on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status.
- Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide specified technical assistance.
- Requires a government study of all states to make sure they’re complying with this act.
Under the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, faith-based groups would be required by law to place children with LGBT foster and adoptive parents. There are currently many foster and adoption agencies serving potential LGBT parents, but this law would ensure Christian groups are added to that list.
Why does it matter?
Without a government license, faith-based agencies can’t provide adoption or foster care services. The first piece of legislation mentioned above allows Christian groups to operate by biblical principles, while the second bill requires Christian groups to play by society’s rules.
“Families who want to be adoptive parents or foster families should have the right to choose if they want to be served by a faith-based organization,” notes Blacquiere.
“Just because a Christian family adopts a child doesn’t mean the child will become, automatically, a Christian. But the child will be exposed to Christianity through the example and through the teachings from their parents.”
There are a couple of ways you can take action, Blacquiere adds. First, take this issue to the Lord in prayer.
“Specific prayers would be that there would be other Senators and Representatives who would sign on and vote for this bill,” says Blacquiere.
Pray also that the bill wouldn’t cause hostility, but merely protect religious freedom. In addition, “people should contact their Senators and U.S. Representatives and ask them to sign on to support the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.”