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.
Opposition is growing since the Georgia Senate passed SB 375, a harmful bill that would allow government-funded adoption and foster care agencies to use religion to discriminate against kids in their care and prospective parents.
Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair to put the religious beliefs of government-funded service providers above the best interests of children in foster care.
The latest attack on marriage equality from the Religious Right: Marriage would be between one man and one woman. All other marriages would be “parody marriages.”
Rachel Laser, Americans United’s new executive director, introduces herself and her vision for building a coalition of advocates who understand that church-state separation is the foundation of religious freedom for all.
In Georgia, there are more than 14,000 children in foster care. Tomorrow morning at 8:00am, legislators there will debate a bill that would make it even harder for these children to find safe, stable, and loving homes.
Religious Freedom laws should be a shield to protect religious freedom, not a sword used to harm others. But this year, as in past sessions, legislators continue to introduce so-called religious freedom bills that would allow taxpayer-funded social service providers, individuals, and businesses to use religion to discriminate and deny people their rights.
There’s no denying that 2017 was a tough year for advocates of religious freedom and church-state separation. Yet despite the barrage of assaults from the Donald Trump-Mike Pence administration, Americans United saw important victories in and out of court.
It looks like the overwhelming response saying that it’s a bad idea to give federal contractors and grantees religious exemptions that allow them to discriminate has gotten the attention of the HHS. But HHS’s reaction has been to hide our criticism.
This morning, another bill that allows religion to be used to discriminate started making its way through Congress. Hidden in the bill dubbed the PROSPER Act are several provisions that would allow religious student groups and religious colleges and universities that get taxpayer funds to use religion to get around nondiscrimination policies that protect students and employees at these schools.
Today is #GivingTuesday, an international day of philanthropy that kicks off the charitable season. Thanks to generous gifts from our supporters on #GivingTuesday and throughout the year, Americans United has been able to continue to fight against attacks on religious freedom.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just asked the public whether it should give new religious exemptions to faith-based organizations that accept grants and contracts to provide services to the public.
Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who made national news in 2015 when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reappeared in the news recently when she announced that she will seek re-election next year.
The Trump Administration is taking yet another step towards making it easier for taxpayer-funded organizations to use religion to discriminate.
The Associated Press reports that a North Dakota couple filed a lawsuit against Catholic Charities for refusing to let them adopt a 15-year-old girl who had been in foster care for eight years because they were living together before they were married.
From AU's Wall of Separation blog:
Last Friday, the Trump Administration announced major policy changes that significantly weaken the principle of church-state separation and serve as a blueprint for using religion to discriminate, especially against women and LGBTQ people.
The two new rules that offer organizations and corporations the right to deny women insurance coverage for contraception made the news. Less coverage was given to the Department of Justice’s 25-page guidance titled, “Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty.” This guidance contains extreme interpretations of the law in an effort to give a greenlight to religious exemptions, regardless of how an exemption would affect other people or the public interest.
Religious freedom is a fundamental value, but it does not allow religion to be used as an excuse to harm other people.
Here are just a few of the most troubling ways the guidance could be used:
- People and corporations may cite religion as an excuse to ignore nondiscrimination laws that protect women and LGBTQ people.
- Taxpayer-funded organizations can claim a right to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. They can also use a religious litmus test to decide whom they will serve within the government-funded social service program and which services they will provide, even if it conflicts with the terms of the government grant or contract.
- The government will give religious exemptions to businesses and government employees, even if the result is taking away a right or benefit the law guarantees to someone else.
In other words, the guidance allows taxpayer-funded organizations, corporations, and individuals to use religion as a trump card to almost any law.
This guidance misses the mark: Our laws should be a shield to protect religious freedom and not a sword to harm others. Our country is strongest when we are all free to believe or not, as we see fit, and to practice our faith without hurting others.
Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair to the children who will remain in foster care longer when state contractors use religion to reject qualified families who want to provide safe, loving homes.
Last year, Amanda Abramovich and Samantha Brookover were harassed by a West Virginia county clerk who ranted at them as they applied for a wedding license. The clerk called them an “abomination” and declared her belief that the same-sex couple shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Today, thanks to Amanda and Samantha’s courage to stand up to discrimination, Gilmer County has promised that other same-sex couples won’t face similar harassment that ruins their wedding days.