On July 11, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) proposed a controversial amendment to the 2019 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The measure, which got initial approval from the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, would allow discriminatory child welfare agencies to receive federal funding.
Currently, federal law says that government-funded adoption agencies are not allowed to deny service to anyone for religious or moral reasons. The Robert Aderholt Amendment makes room for more faith-based discrimination in the child welfare system by letting organizations pick and choose who they serve without forfeiting government aid.
Opponents fear that this will undo the progress that the LGBTQ community has made toward securing the right to adopt, and encourage further discrimination against anyone who doesn’t fit a “traditional parent” mold.
Aderholt, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, pitched his amendment as something of an all-hands-on-deck approach to getting children out of foster care. “We need more support for these families and children in crisis,” he wrote in a press release, “not less.”
What the representative failed to note is that more agencies won’t necessarily lead to more homes for foster children. Rather than widening the pool of potential adoptive parents, the Aderholt Amendment would create more competition for non-discriminatory agencies. This could reduce the number of available homes by limiting the options for LGBTQ people, single people and unmarried couples.
The same groups that are subject to discrimination are the ones that give the child welfare system hope of solving the foster care crisis. A fact sheet on the American Civil Liberties Union website points out that married, opposite-sex couples cannot accommodate the entire population of children that lack homes. “There simply are not enough married mothers and fathers who are interested in adoption and foster care,” it reads. “Last year only 20,000 of the 100,000 foster children in need of adoption were adopted, including children adopted by single people as well as married couples.”
“Faith and Freedom” is listed on Aderholt’s government webpage as part of his political platform. He quotes a portion of the First Amendment that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Aderholt claims that the government intrudes upon people who exercise religious freedom, but one could just as easily claim that when it comes to child welfare, the government has been playing it neutral. The law doesn’t prohibit faith-based adoption agencies from finding homes for children, it simply declines to spend taxpayer dollars on agencies that are unwilling to serve all taxpayers.
Though the Aderholt Amendment was approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, the spending bill that it’s tacked on to has yet to receive final approval in Congress. If the amendment is implemented, the Department of Health and Human Services would be required to start withholding 15 percent of child welfare funds from any state or local government that shows bias toward secular agencies.
Several politicians and advocacy groups have taken to social media to speak out against the narrow-sighted proposal, using the hashtag #LicenseToDiscriminate—a reference to the similar “license to discriminate” laws that a handful of states have already enacted.
To learn more about how you can prevent the Aderholt Amendment from becoming law, visit the Every Child Deserves a Family website at https://goo.gl/5NLJ1k.
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