With the blessing of the state’s Catholic bishops, Texas legislators passed a bill that would allow religiously-affiliated social services to deny LGBT people from full participation in adoption and foster care programs. But whose interests are being served by this incoming law?
The Freedom to Serve Children Act was passed by both Texas’ House of Representatives and Senate in May. Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign it, reported Crux. The news story reported that once the bill becomes law, it will have “multiple applications,” including:
“It could allow groups that believe children should be placed only with a married adoptive mother and father to provide foster services without facing lawsuits from same-sex couples.”
Supporters claim the bill will improve services for children. For example, State Senator Eddie Lucio, a Democrat, said the bill is “about providing homes for kids.” The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops also lauded the bill, with Executive Director Jennifer Carr Allmon saying:
“‘Now Catholics can join other people of good will and serve Texas’s children in good faith. . .Most Catholic Charities in the state had withdrawn from serving foster children. . .The new law removes a significant barrier to Catholics serving children in the foster care system and will trigger greater recruitment efforts by Catholic parishes and ministries.'”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supported similar legislation at the federal level, saying the proposed “Inclusion Act” would end “unjust discrimination” currently imposed on Catholic social service providers who cannot receive government funding if they discriminate against LGBT people.
Adoption rights have been a highly controversial matter as LGBT equality has expanded. Despite more supportive stances held by Catholics in the pews, church leaders have sought to protect discriminatory policies.
The Missionary Sisters of Charity, the community which Mother Teresa founded, stopped facilitating adoptions in 2015 because they feared single gay people would become parents. Scotland’s St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society successfully attained the right to discriminate against LGBT clients. And, according to an unconfirmed report from one of Malta’s bishops, Pope Francis was “shocked” in 2014 to find out that same-gender couples could be granted adoption rights in the island nation. Catholic birth parents unsuccessfully sued in Australia to bar a lesbian couple from adopting their child.
In the United States, church-affiliated social services providers have ended adoption services in Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states, as well as the District of Columbia. Bishops supported passage of a South Dakota law that is similar to the proposed bill in Texas, with Catholic Social Services even helping to co-write the law.
Critics, like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign, said the Texas bill would, in the words of HRC’s Marty Rouse, “prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system.”
It is hard not to agree that children are victims of this proposed law. Catholic social service providers are not facing a threat to their religious liberty. They are concerned because discriminating against LGBT adoptive and foster parents excludes them from participation in government systems and, crucially, funding sources. Texas’ upcoming law and similar legislation are hardly about the freedom to serve children.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 11, 2017