May 18, 2018

Americans United for Separation of Church and State criticized Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer for signing Senate Bill 284 into law. The measure gives taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies a right to use religion to deny children loving homes by discriminating against prospective parents. This is a troubling trend: Oklahoma enacted a law like this last week and the South Carolina legislature is considering a similar provision in its budget bill.

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued the following statement:

“Religious freedom should never be used to justify discrimination against people or cause them harm – yet that is exactly what this law does. It gives taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies the right to elevate their religious beliefs over what children need.

“This law does a great disservice to kids in care. Those children deserve loving, stable homes, and providing them should be Kansas’ first priority. Senate Bill 284 works against that principle by allowing state-funded agencies to turn away prospective parents – in the name of religion – because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced or the ‘wrong religion.’ This law is indefensible.

“The governor’s decision ignores the Kansas faith leaders, civil rights organizations and corporations that spoke out in opposition to this legislation. It also turns a blind eye to the potential reputational fallout, which helped to prompt the defeat of similar legislation in Georgia earlier this year.

“We urge other states considering harmful policies like this to put children first. Our laws should be a shield to protect religious freedom and not a sword to harm others.”

Americans United, which has sued to defend LGBTQ rights in other contexts, noted that laws like this are being challenged in court in other states. The organization said that the Kansas law is likely to spark legal action as well.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.