Religious freedom gives Americans the right to believe, or not, as they choose, but it does not give anyone the right to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against kids and families.
During the Values Voter Summit (VVS) over the weekend, leaders and followers of the Religious Right made clear they plan to continue their attempts to weaponize religious freedom as a means to justify discrimination, particularly against LGBTQ people and women.
Senate confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh start today—even though thousands of requested documents from Kavanaugh’s time working in the George W. Bush White House have not yet been released or reviewed by the Senate or the public.
One of the issues that the Supreme Court will decide in next few years is whether religion can be used to undermine civil rights protections, especially those that protect LGBTQ people and women. What do we know about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s record on this issue? When he worked for President George W. Bush, he volunteered to be the point person on the “faith-based initiative”—a key component of which was allowing taxpayer-funded organizations that provide social services to use religion to justify employment discrimination.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force” to enforce the Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance he issued last fall that would allow religion to be used to discriminate.
The U.S. Justice Department hosted a so-called “Religious Liberty Summit” today, an event Americans United for Separation of Church and State blasted as one-sided and inaccurate.
Ignoring the best interest of children, a few House Republicans have proposed allowing federally funded adoption and foster care agencies to use religion to discriminate against prospective parents and children in need. Americans United joined hundreds of civil rights and child welfare organizations this week in urging members of Congress to reject this cruel proposal.
House Republicans amended a spending bill to include language that would allow adoption and foster care agencies that receive federal funding to discriminate against qualified prospective parents and children in need based on the agency’s religious beliefs. The result: Kids could be denied stable, loving homes with prospective parents who are LGBTQ, single, previously divorced or even the “wrong religion.”
Religious freedom is a fundamental value, but it does not permit government-funded providers to discriminate against the children and families they are supposed to serve.
Every legislative session, AU tracks hundreds of state bills that, if passed, would undermine religious freedom in nearly every state. We often see trends arise across states. Lawmakers in different states introduce similar bills, and sometimes even the same exact bills with the same exact language. And we can usually figure out why that happens: conservative lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and state Focus on the Family affiliates often shop model bills around to state legislators, who then introduce these model bills in their states. The lobbying groups also share strategies with legislators to help pass their bills. The result: Similar harmful bills appear and pass in many different states in a nationwide onslaught.
Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief yesterday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California v. Azar—a challenge to the Trump-Pence administration’s new rules that would allow employers and universities to use religion to deny their employees and students health insurance coverage for birth control.
Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) today introduced the Do No Harm Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill honors two core American values: religious freedom and equal protection of the law. And it couldn’t be more important right now.
On Friday evening, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed two bills that undermine religious freedom: SB 1140, which allows state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to use religion to justify denying children homes and discriminating against prospective parents, and HB 2177, which authorizes every government building and public school to display the Ten Commandments.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin this evening signed into law Senate Bill 1140, giving taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies a green light to use religion to deny children loving homes and to discriminate against prospective parents.
Oklahoma’s state legislature recently passed a bill, SB 1140, that would allow state-funded child-placing agencies to use religion to justify denying children homes and discriminating against prospective parents. This bill allows foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to perform, assist or participate in any child placement in the name of religion. So that means religious child placement agencies could turn away prospective parents who want to provide kids with a loving, stable home because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced, or the “wrong religion.”
State legislatures in both Kansas and Oklahoma passed bills last Thursday (Senate Bill 284 in Kansas and Senate Bill 1140 in Oklahoma) that would allow state-funded child-placing agencies to use religion to justify denying children homes and discriminating against prospective parents.
In honor of the National Day of Prayer, President Donald Trump, with his Evangelical Advisory Board by his side, held a ceremony in the Rose Garden and signed an “Executive Order on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.” Under the guise of religious freedom, this executive order further entrenches the administration’s policies to allow religion to discriminate.
In Kansas, dozens of foster children are spending their nights not in warm beds in safe homes, but on couches and cots in child welfare offices run by state contractors. These children need loving foster and adoptive families to provide the care they need. Yet, in spite of this crisis, Kansas legislators are trying to make it harder for these children to find families who can give them warm, safe beds.