July/August 2018 Church & State Magazine - July/August 2018

Kansas Governor Signs Bill Allowing Discrimination In Adoption Policy

  Liz Hayes

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) on May 18 signed into law Senate Bill 284, which gives taxpayer-funded adoption and foster-care agencies a green light to use religion to justify discrimination against prospective parents.

Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser condemned Colyer’s decision.

“This law does a great disservice to kids in care,” Laser said in a media statement. “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.”

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

Proponents claim SB 284 encourages more faith-based organizations to become child-placement agencies. But opponents counter that there is not a shortage of child-welfare agencies; instead, there is a shortage of families willing and able to foster and adopt children – and that shortage of families is only expected to grow under SB 284 and laws like it.

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

Colyer signed SB 284 one week after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a similar bill, and as South Carolina legislators were considering similar legislation.

“We urge other states considering harmful policies like this to put children first,” Laser added, noting that such discriminatory laws are being challenged in courts around the country. “Our laws should be a shield to protect religious freedom and not a sword to harm others.”

Faith leaders, civil rights organizations, businesses and celebrities have spoken out against the discriminatory adoption bills in Kan­sas, Oklahoma and elsewhere. Laser noted the “potential reputational fallout … helped to prompt the defeat of similar legislation in Georgia earlier this year.”

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