Texas "Religious Freedom" Bills Could Discriminate Against Children And Families

  Image by svetikd/Getty Images

Image by svetikd/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Americans United sent a letter to the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee urging them to oppose SB 892, a bill that would provide taxpayer-funded child welfare service providers with a broad right to refuse services to vulnerable children if the service conflicts with the agency’s religious beliefs. The legislation is so broad that it would include the right to refuse to place children in adoptive and foster homes, leading to discrimination against prospective foster and adoptive parents, as well as children. AU sent a letter to the Texas House State Affairs Committee urging them to oppose HB 3859, an identical adoption bill, in March

Legislatures throughout the country have considered these types of bills.  However, these bills are unique in the way they specifically define “child welfare services.” Listing them, A through P, they include everything from “assisting abused or neglected children,” to “serving as a foster parent” to providing homes to children as services where a provider could refuse to serve the child or family based on religious beliefs

In the end, this legislation has the potential to discriminate against a wide range of Texans. For example, under these laws, a taxpayer-funded child welfare service provider could refuse to place a child with an otherwise qualified same-sex married couple, place a child with her grandparents because they are Jewish, or provide family support services to a teen and his family because his father had been previously divorced. Ultimately, these broad bills could cause suffering for families and children in the name of religion.

Americans United supports true religious freedom—the freedom to believe or not believe according to your own conscience. SB 892 and HB 3859 pervert this cherished American right, allowing taxpayer-funded child-welfare agencies to use their religious beliefs to harm children who need a caring home and the families that long to provide one for them. Now is the time to stand up and tell Texas legislators that religion is no excuse to discriminate. Texans, urge your state representative to oppose HB 3859.