May 11, 2018

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.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State Legislative Director Maggie Garrett issued the following statement:

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value. So is protecting our children. Senate Bill 1140 violates both of these core principles. Religion should never be used as an excuse to discriminate or cause harm to others, but this law gives taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies the authority to do just that.

“Kids in care deserve loving, stable homes, and that should be Oklahoma’s first priority. Yet with this law, state-funded agencies could deny children these homes by turning away prospective parents because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced or the ‘wrong religion.’ Letting taxpayer-funded agencies ignore the best interests of children in their care is indefensible.

“The governor’s decision turns a blind eye to the potential harm to the state’s reputation, which helped to prompt the defeat of similar legislation in Georgia earlier this year. It also ignores more than 100 local faith leaders, organizations and congregations, along with national religious organizations, that called for the governor to veto the bill​.

“We hope other governors, including Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is considering a similar bill, will put their state’s 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 Oklahoma 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.