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The following points seek to illustrate not only why this is a bad bill but also why it is SO important that faith leaders on our side speak out:
- The best interests of the child is THE standard in all foster care and adoption considerations. This bill undermines that foundational principle by prioritizing the interests of the providers, over the best interests of the children they contract to serve.
- And on the contract point, we’re talking about children in the state-run foster care system. We’re talking about organizations that are faith-based BUT are receiving government funds to provide public adoptions. There is a fundamental principle that taxpayer money must not be used to promote or fund organizations that engage in discrimination with that money.
- Organizations like Catholic Charities who provide these services are saying they need this bill because otherwise they may need to withdraw services. They have in fact done so in other states like Massachusetts and Illinois and in DC when statewide marriage equality laws were past….and in those states, they transferred services to other providers and we did NOT see any significant disruption of services at all.
- Nationally, the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies (who have ~125 Jewish family service agencies in the US/Canada) is one such agency that supports—and regularly does—LGBT-parent adoptions. I consider it a point of pride for our community and an example that this is not a religious right vs secular left debate
This bill is SO broad that in theory, a religious org could deny a foster care placement to, say, an interracial or interfaith couple if the organization has a religious objection to interracial or interfaith marriage.
June 7, 2015
The Honorable Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Dear Governor Snyder:
As rabbis who serve Jewish communities throughout Michigan, we write to urge you to publicly oppose House Bills 4188, 1489 and 1490, and to veto them should they reach your desk. These appalling pieces of legislation would effectively create a license to discriminate for adoption or foster care providers, even when contracting with the state and taking taxpayer dollars to serve children in need.
Under these pieces of legislation, any provider of adoption or foster care services could deny or delay placement of a child if that placement would violate the religious or moral beliefs of the provider. Because these bills are so incredibly broad, service providers could refuse to place youth in care because the youth or a prospective parent is LGBTQ, of a different faith, of no faith, of a different or particular race, divorced, single, of a particular political ideology, and more. In other words, not only could potential parents be turned away because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression—which would be bad enough on its own—but interracial or interfaith parents could be turned away as well despite being otherwise qualified.
As Jews, we are reminded throughout our sacred texts of our duty to protect the stranger, the orphan and the widow: the most vulnerable members of our society. The primary reason hundreds of thousands of children remain in, or age out of, the foster care system is a lack of qualified homes. This is a moral travesty. We are called upon to do all we can to ensure children grow up with loving, supportive families that will set them on the path toward happy and healthy adulthood.
A foundational principle of our child welfare services is that all decisions be made based on the best interests of the child. Yet, allowing adoption or foster care providers to discriminate against potential parents and the children they serve would prioritize providers’ interests over the best interests of the children they serve and close available—desperately needed—homes to youth in
care. Such a move would undermine this bedrock principle of our child welfare services. We firmly believe that ensuring qualified parents are not being discriminated against in this manner is one of the best steps you can take to meet the needs of children in foster care.
House Bills 4188, 1489 and 1490 fly in the face of the foundational principles on which our child welfare system was based. As religious leaders/As people of faith we urge you to put the needs of children first by speaking out publicly against, and should they it to your desk, vetoing these appalling bills.
Thank you for your consideration, and for all you do to support the thriving of Michigan's residents.