Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights
We have been increasingly concerned about state and federal legislation and policy that expressly allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate based on their religious beliefs, against potential foster or adoptive parents—specifically LGBTQ couples. Some of the bills are so broad as to permit discrimination against children. Using religion as justification, these laws deprive the most vulnerable children among us of the chance to be welcomed into the homes of safe and loving families.
This has the potential to do grave harm to the children we serve: according to one in five same-sex couples (21.4 percent) are raising adopted children compared to just 3 percent of different-sex couples, and 2.9 percent of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4 percent of different-sex couples. This means that same-sex couples are seven times more likely than different-sex couples to be raising an adopted or foster child.
But discriminatory state laws remain in place. Currently, eleven states have provisions that allow discrimination based on “religious freedom.” Similar bills have been introduced in several other states.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
One of the best ways to counter this harm is to bring faith leaders together on behalf of children in child welfare systems. That’s why we launched the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights. We hope that you will join us in fighting back against state legislation and policy that use religious freedom to enshrine a “license to discriminate.”
Children’s Rights respects and values the role that faith-based agencies play in providing both placement and services for children in foster care across the country. Our concern is with government-sanctioned discrimination of any kind.
Although state legislation and the Trump administration’s rulemaking are directed at the LGBTQ community, as in Philadelphia and Michigan, the language permits taxpayer-funded discrimination against anyone who does not meet the religious litmus test of child welfare service providers.
For example, a South Carolina provider agency refused to work with a Catholic family, a Jewish couple, and a Jewish woman simply because of their faith. Around the time this information became public, the State sought and was granted a waiver from a federal nondiscrimination regulation, the very one the Trump administration rescinded, to enable agencies to continue to turn away otherwise qualified prospective foster and adoptive parents.
In November 2021, the Biden administration revoked the waivers that allowed taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to override non-discrimination rules when they conflicted with providers’ religious beliefs. This move came after the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would reinstitute the Obama-era nondiscrimination policy in three states that had sought and been granted waivers: Michigan, South Carolina, and Texas. Foster care providers in these states can no longer turn away would-be foster parents because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
However, in Tennessee, a foster care provider turned away a Jewish couple who wanted to adopt a 3-year old boy based on a law that allows taxpayer-funded adoption agencies not to place children in arrangements that violate the agencies’ “religious or moral convictions or policies.” The couple is challenging the 2020 state law and suing the state child welfare agency.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Urge your members of Congress to pass the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act.
- Demand equality now and call on your Senators to pass the Equality Act.
- Stay informed—for updates, join the Children’s Rights email list and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
INTERFAITH COALITION FOR CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
As we move forward in our advocacy, we will call on the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights to submit public comments, sign letters, participate in amicus briefs, and mobilize grassroots action. Working together, we can make a real difference.
Founding members of our Interfaith Coalition include the Hon. Ruth Messinger, Social Justice Activist and Consultant; Union Theological Seminary (Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, and Rev. Frederick A. Davie, Senior Strategic Advisor to the President); Episcopal Divinity School at Union (Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean, and Miguel Escobar, Executive Director); Rabbi David Sandmel, Director of Interreligious Engagement, ADL (Anti-Defamation League); and Rabbi Steve Gutow, Visiting Scholar, The Wagner School, New York University.
Please send an email to Daniele Gerard at email@example.com with any questions you may have, and to let us know we can count on your faith organization to become a member of the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights.
- Statement: Children’s Rights Congratulates Lambda and Americans United on Victory for Lesbian Woman Rejected by Foster Care Agency (June 27, 2022)
- Statement: Arizona Law Sanctions Taxpayer-funded Discrimination and Harms Children and Families (April 27, 2022)
- The Imprint: Don’t Let Foster Care Contracts Open a Back Door to Discrimination
(March 9, 2022)
- Statement: Children’s Rights Denounces Michigan Settlement as Taxpayer-funded Discrimination (January 27, 2022)
- TODAY: Jewish couple challenges Tennessee law after Christian agency’s policy prevented adoption (January 22, 2022)
- Blog: A Worthy Moment During This Most Hopeful of Seasons by Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, member of the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights (December 15, 2021)
- Press Release: Interfaith Coalition Applauds Biden Administration for Reversing Trump Rule on Faith-Based Discrimination in Foster Placement (December 7, 2021)
- Blog: Advocate for a Fair Future for Kids at All Costs by Rabbi Philip “Flip” Rice, Congregation Micah, member of the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights (September 14, 2021)
- Webinar: Understanding Fulton v. City of Philadelphia with the Union Theological Seminary (June 23, 2021)
- The Imprint News: Supreme Court Says Philadelphia Violated Catholic Child Welfare Group’s First Amendment Rights (June 17, 2021)
- Blog: Why Catholics Must Support Equal Treatment for LGBTQ+ People by Colt Anderson, member of the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights (May 12, 2021)
- Webinar: Stakes are High for Children in SCOTUS Case (April 16, 2021)
- Blog: Honor John Lewis by Upholding the Dignity of All Children and Families by Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice (February 26, 2021)
- Op-Ed in The Tennessean by Rabbi Philip “Flip” Rice: Adoption law targets LGBTQ community, Jewish people and others; it’s not moral (January 28, 2020)
- Op-Ed in Sojourners by Rev. Dr. Serene Jones and Sandy Santana: Reject Discrimination and Put Children First (October 17, 2019)
- Chronicle of Social Change: Interfaith Coalition Formed to Oppose Discrimination by Religious Child Welfare Providers (July 2, 2019)
- Op-Ed in The Forward by Ruth Messinger and Sandy Santana: The Trump Administration’s Discriminatory Policies Are Harming The Most Vulnerable Children (June 19, 2019)
- Press Release: Children’s Rights, Faith Leaders Launch Interfaith Coalition to Fight Foster Care and Adoption Discrimination (June 11, 2019)
- Blog: Announcing the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights (May 29, 2019)
- Friend of the Court Brief in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (October 4, 2018)
To follow additional ongoing media coverage, please visit our LGBTQ Project page.
INTERFAITH COALITION FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS