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Committee Supports Bill Protecting Religious Liberties of Faith Based Adoption Agencies

By Brandon Moseley

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 the Senate Health Committee gave a favorable report to Senate Bill 145 sponsored by Senator Bill Hightower (R from Mobile). The Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act would prohibit state bureaucrats from discriminating against child care service providers who due to their closely held religious beliefs do not place children with households engaged in same sex sexual conduct,

Sen. Hightower said, “The bill as you read it is pretty straight forward.” Adoption is a great thing and the more channels for adoption the better. I am sorry that this bill is contentious but there is a concern that agencies are not going to let some of the placing agencies continue to operate. 70 percent of the children that are adopted do not go through a state based agency. Just 30 percent of children that are placed for adoption go through faith based agencies. Some people say that what I am saying is totally ridiculous, but I want to allow them (the faith based adoption agencies) to continue to prosper. I don’t want to force faith based placing agencies to choose between violating their core beliefs or going out of doing adoptions.

Hightower said, “This is about the state discriminating against faith based organizations in the placement of children.” Hightower admitted that to this point in Alabama the threat of faith based placing agencies being prohibited from doing adoptions is purely hypothetical at this point.

Sen. Linda Coleman Madison (D from Birmingham) said, “I don’t understand the need for this.”

Sen. Paul Bussman (R from Cullman) said that the bill would prevent DHR from discriminating against a fath based organization that does refuses an adoption to a same sex couple. “If you go back into early times the Church has been the agency that has dealt with adoption.” Faith based adoption agencies have existed since early times and are the cornerstone of the adoption system.
We can not penalize the faith based agencies if they discriminate against same sex people.

Sen. Coleman-Madison said that religious liberty is what this country is built on.

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Senator Cam Ward (R from Alabaster) asked, “Is there any legal issue because you are using government dollars?” We need to be aware of what we are spending on legal fees defending some of these bills.

Sen. Greg Reed (R from Jasper) said that our focus should be on the children. Massachusetts does discriminate against agencies which won’t place children with same sex households, As a result the Catholic adoption agency ceased doing adoptions and pulled out of the state. Who loses is the kids.

No public hearing had been formally scheduled for SB145, but since over 100 people attended the committee meeting, Health Committee Chairman Jim McClendon (R from Springville) allowed proponents and opponents of SB145 to make public comments anyway.

Phil Turkett spoke in opposition to the bill. I am a Christian. I have been married for 31years. My daughter is gay. This bill will not only discriminate against my daughter and the thousands of other people in Alabama, it would allow agencies to discriminate against them because they are gay. God created all men and all women equal. A person should not meet a religious requirement in order to place a child. I believe that the intention of this bill is to discriminate against gay people.

Marie Collier said that she herself was an adopted child who was placed with her parents by a faith based placement agency. The faith based child agency is vitally important to how my life turned out. My birth mother wanted Christian parents for me. It is important that you protect the right of the birth mother. I encourage you to protect the rights of these agencies.

The state police director for the Family Equality Council Denise Brogan Kaytor said that she was there representing over 3 million LGBT parents. Alabama has 5000 children in the foster program. 1000 of those are ready to be adopted. It is bad public policy to allow placing agencies to refuse to place children in good homes. Taylor said that in states that have prohibited agencies from discriminating against LGBT homes, leading to faith based agencies departing the state the effect of such departures has been insignificant. This bill fails to maximize the number of families to adopt children.

One young woman identified herself both as a child who was adopted through a faith based agency and as a birth mother who at 17 chose to place her child with a faith based placement agency. She said that she chose the agency, “Because I knew they would be raised like I was.” “It was my choice to to know where the child is going. I wanted the same kind of environment where I was raised.” There are other organizations that allow adoptions to same sex persons.

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State Senator Larry Stutts (R from Sheffield) said that as a doctor, “I have referred a number of babies that were placed in adoption agencies.” Many birth mothers choose the agency because she has confidence that the agency shares her values.

Senator Tim Melson (R from Florence) said “I support this bill,” but I would like to have a public hearing where we could hear from some of these agencies.

Reverend Charles Perry of Unity of Birmingham said Even with my own deeply held beliefs. That does not give me the right to take away someone else’s rights. I don’t belief that is what my faith calls me to do.” Rev. Perry said what if an agency claimed their faith prevented them from placing a child with an interracial couple? Or if a Catholic agency decides it can’t give children to Baptists? Or if a Muslim based agency decides it can’t place children with non-Muslims?

Birmingham Attorney Sam McClure said, I do represent a lot of faith based adoption agencies in the state and I can speak on their behalf. The most common two stipulations of birth parents when placing children are that the family not have children already and they be Christian. They want to believe they are giving my child the best future possible. There is a lot of misinformation that this bill discriminates. Actually the state has been weaponized as a tool to discriminate. This bill protects agencies from the weaponization of government to be used against these agencies.

Sen. Greg Reed motioned to give SB145 a favorable report.

Sen. Gerald Dial (R from Lineville) seconded that motion.

Sen. Coleman – Madison said I am still not clear about the need for this bill. At this point I am not fully understanding why this is necessary. Are we in violation of some type of federal law
I am not seeing this.

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The Committee voted to give SB145 a favorable report. It can now go to the Senate floor.

Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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