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.

Republican members of a congressional committee earlier this month tucked this discriminatory language into a routine spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.

Known as the Aderholt amendment because it was introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) with support from Reps. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the provision permits child welfare agencies that receive federal funding to cite their religious beliefs as justification for refusing to place children in need of stable homes with loving families because prospective parents are LGBTQ, single, previously divorced or even the “wrong religion.”

“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to discriminate and no family should be told they are not qualified to serve as foster or adoptive parents because they are LGBTQ or the ‘wrong’ religion by a taxpayer-funded provider,” notes a letter to Congress signed by AU and more than 200 other organizations. “This amendment would allow agencies to use a religious litmus test to determine which families or children to serve, and which services to provide, while still receiving taxpayer dollars.”

Not only would the Aderholt amendment allow discrimination against prospective parents, but it would also allow agencies to deny assistance to kids in care. An agency could refuse to provide a foster home to an LGBTQ teen, provide necessary health care to a child who has been sexually assaulted or allow a kid in foster care to attend her church.

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. That’s especially true when organizations, like these adoption and foster care agencies, get public funding to provide a service on behalf of the government. Taxpayer money should never fund discrimination.

This measure goes against the bedrock principle of our child welfare system by putting the religious beliefs of these agencies above the best interest of kids. Nearly half a million children in the United States are in foster care. Every year, less than half of the children waiting to be adopted find forever homes and tens of thousands of foster youth age out of the system without finding a loving, forever family.

No qualified parents willing to open their arms and their homes to children in need should be turned away because of a taxpayer-funded agency’s religious beliefs, but that’s exactly the Aderholt amendment would allow.

Americans United and our coalition partners aren’t alone in speaking out against this proposal. More than 100 child welfare organizations also have voiced their opposition. And U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) led 40 fellow senators in writing to the Senate Appropriations Committee, urging members to reject the discriminatory language when it considers the spending bill.

Here’s what Wyden tweeted:

AU will fight this and any other policies that would allow religion to be used to discriminate. And we need your help. Sign up for our emails so that you can be ready to respond.