Two bills, introduced in late August and discussed by a Michigan House of Representatives committee last week, allow private adoption agencies to refuse to place a child in the care of a family that contradicts the agency’s religious beliefs or polices, effectively allowing discrimination. Lawmakers could vote on these bills this week. Although these religiously affiliated agencies are deemed “private” institutions, the majority of them utilize public funding. Any agency receiving funding from the state shouldn’t be permitted to place precedence on their own perhaps discriminatory agenda over the best interest of the adoptees.
Under these bills, agencies may extend their religious liberties beyond potential clients of a different faith to include screening single people or same-sex couples. Adoptions by same-sex couples are on the rise and by some are viewed as a much-needed resource for children in government care. Bryan Samuels, the commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, explained in a memo, “The child-welfare system has come to understand that placing a child in a gay or lesbian family is no greater risk than placing them in a heterosexual family.” The focus of agency efforts and emphasis should not be placed on the sexual orientation or religious affiliation of prospective parents, but rather if they can and will provide a positive, nurturing environment for the adoptees.
The bills, both introduced and sponsored by Republican state representatives, are just another example of Republicans allowing their moral arguments to get in the way of effective policy. State representatives only continue to delay any forward movement or final decision on Common Care funding — despite the fact that 45 other states have already adopted the standards. Similarly, and under the belief that their children and grandchildren will eventually lie responsible for what state Senator John Moolenaar deemed the “crushing federal debt” of the program, Republican representatives vehemently fought Medicaid expansion — until, of course, it was passed this August with the potential to aid 320,000 people in the first year and 470,000 by 2020.
The underlying ethics the bills represent should neither be ignored nor dismissed. House Bill no. 4928 would permit an adoption agency the ability to refuse to place a child with potential parents because the couple violates the child placing agency’s written religious or moral policies; subsequently, House Bill no. 2937 disallows the government’s ability to deny those agencies state funding. Both policies essentially enable religious discrimination and possible neglect of the primary purpose of adoption agencies: finding orphaned children supportive, loving and nurturing families. The proposed doctrines are fundamentally unsound, receiving state funding and discrimination should be mutually exclusive — and adoption agencies that enjoy financial support of the government should therefore not also ask to undermine its existing foundational principles.