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Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

Texas House OKs giving adoption agencies 'religious refusal'

Texas House OKs giving adoption agencies 'religious refusal'

House Bill 3859 was approved 94-51 on Tuesday amid opposition from Democrats who asserted that the move was discriminatory against homosexuals, "transgenders" and those of other religions. Supporters say it would give foster care and adoption agencies of religious affiliations the ability to participate in the welfare system while upholding their convictions.

While five other states have allowed religious adoption groups to use "religious freedom" as grounds when making placement decisions, Texas would also allow adoption agencies funded by the state to discriminate.

Democratic lawmakers believe the bill will give religious groups license to discriminate against divorced, LGBT or non-Christian parents to want to foster or adopt. She said Wednesday that alterations the House made while approving her bill last week were "bad for Houston taxpayers" and "shockingly fiscally irresponsible".

Opponents say that this vague language would open the door for widespread discrimination against nearly anyone, including interfaith couples, provided that doing so could be justified as a "sincerely held religious belief". The state Senate is even more conservative, though passage isn't guaranteed with the legislative session weeks away from ending. Such actions include denying funding, canceling contracts, and declining licensure, for example.

Many state-funded Texas adoption and foster care agencies routinely deny non-Christian, gay, and unmarried applicants on religious grounds - and legislation that got initial approval in the state House on Tuesday is created to protect them from potential lawsuits from doing so. South Dakota passed similar legislation in March but it's too soon to measure its practical effects.

The San Antonio Family Association says in no way is this bill discrimination.

Supporters of the measure have defended their support for it by citing the decision by Catholic Charities to shut down adoption services in states like MA and IL following the legalization of same-sex marriage, lest the adoption agencies be found guilty of violating state nondiscrimination laws.

It also provides protections for agencies who intend to enroll children in religious educational institutions, as well as those who decline to provide referrals for abortion or contraceptives. Statler said there are 15,000 children in foster care in Texas, and about a quarter were placed by Christian agencies.

The bill would be the nation's second allowing state-funded adoption agencies to reject families on religious grounds.

Abbott has declared fixing child protective services a priority in the face of rising investigator caseloads and child deaths. "If I'm Catholic I can say I don't want any Baptists to raise the child", Burke said.

Critics said the bill could be used to force foster children to practice a faith that is not their own or be refused emergency contraception after a sexual assault.

The bill has cleared a House committee, and a companion measure is under consideration in the state Senate.

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