The fight for familial freedom

Jacey Mismash, Contributor

On Feb. 7 at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Donald Trump stated, “My administration is working to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs.” This statement comes off the heels of a crackdown on the discriminatory practices and adoption processes seen in faith-based adoption agencies.

The Trump administration already began to protect faith-based agencies prior to this breakfast. According to the “Washington Post,” just this January the Trump administration granted a South Carolina adoption agency a “waiver” from an Obama administration rule that would discipline them for only accepting Christian couples in their publicly funded agency. This rule, as explained in the Legal Information Institute, states that no citizens “will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of or subjected to discrimination in the administration of HHS programs and services based on … factors such as age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Trump’s insurance that agencies like the one in South Carolina previously mentioned will have their religious freedom protected has brought a question to the table of many discussions: what about the wellbeing of the children in those agencies? According to the Adoption Network, 428,000 children are waiting to be adopted, and of those, 60 percent will wait two to five years before being adopted, but, unfortunately, some children will never be adopted before becoming adults. Now with the current administration’s protection of agencies that use religious freedom as a tool to discriminate, many children who could have gone home with willing, capable and loving families will continue to wait.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are actively fighting back against federally funded religious agencies that enforce discriminatory practices. Lawsuits like the one filed by the Union against the state of Michigan in September are actually what prompted President Trump’s pledge to protect faith-based agencies. This lawsuit is meant to “challenge the state’s practice of permitting state-funded child placement agencies to use religious criteria to turn away lesbian and gay prospective foster and adoptive parents,” according to the ACLU. 

Last year, the ACLU’s deputy director of LGBT and HIV Project, Leslie Cooper, stated, “Allowing good families to be turned away because they don’t meet a religious litmus test denies children families they desperately need.” She is right; not only will this protection provided by the Trump administration allow publically funded agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples or individuals, but it will allow them to discriminate against any people they feel go against their religious views. This may include but is not necessarily exclusive to: previously divorced individuals, single parents, interracial couples and couples of a different religious backgrounds.

Not only does this endorsement of discrimination affect couples and individuals looking to start or extend a family, but it affects the children. If the administration’s backing of these agencies continues, the American public will continually fund child placement agencies that care about their own beliefs rather than the wellbeing of children. Had some of these children currently placed in faith-based agencies been placed elsewhere, their options of families wouldn’t be narrowed down based on religious views that they themselves are unable to voice their opinions on.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 15, 2019 issue.