Taxpayer-Funded Child Welfare Agencies Can Now Use Religion To Discriminate In Texas

Image by ToddAaron/Getty Images

Image by ToddAaron/Getty Images

Yesterday Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 3859, and now child welfare agencies receiving state funds can refuse to serve vulnerable children based on the agencies’ religious beliefs. The law is so broad that an agency can even refuse to place children in adoptive and foster homes. 

Religious freedom is a fundamental value and guarantees us all the right to believe or not as we see fit. But it doesn’t give anyone the right to use religion as an excuse to harm others. The law places the religious beliefs of an agency above the needs of the child. This is fundamentally wrong.

Although HB 3859 is explicitly aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people, its reach is much broader. Under this law, 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, the law will cause children and families to suffer in the name of religion.

Texas isn’t the only state to put a law on the books that allows child-placement agencies to use religion to discriminate. Both South Dakota and Alabama enacted laws with similar aims.

Americans United opposed the Texas bill, fighting it from the House and the Senate all the way up to the governor’s desk. We will be watching carefully as this law is implemented. Agencies that contract with the state to serve children who need support and loving homes should always work to fulfill the children’s best interest. Instead, this law allows agencies to ignore their best interest under the guise of religious freedom. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.