Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights

Since 1995, Children’s Rights has been advocating for children in broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. We have won landmark legal victories across the United States that hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy.


We are increasingly concerned about state and federal legislation that expressly allows child welfare agencies to discriminate, based on their religious beliefs, against potential foster or adoptive parents. 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.


One of the best ways to counter this legislation is to bring faith leaders together on behalf of children in child welfare systems. We are very excited to launch the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights, and hope that you will join us in fighting back against state and federal legislation that uses religious freedom to enshrine a “license to discriminate.”

Currently, ten states have provisions that allow discrimination based on “religious freedom.” Source: Movement Advancement Project


Although this legislation is often directed at the LGBTQ community, as in Philadelphia and Michigan, its language permits discrimination against anyone who does not meet the religious litmus test of child welfare service providers. Ten states have provisions that allow discrimination on “religious freedom” grounds. Similar bills have been introduced in several other states.

A South Carolina provider agency recently 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 federal nondiscrimination regulations to enable agencies to continue to turn away otherwise qualified prospective foster and adoptive parents. And now the Trump administration is reportedly planning to allow adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples nationwide.

As we move forward in our advocacy, we will call on the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights to sign letters, participate in amicus briefs, and mobilize grassroots action. Working together, we can make a real difference. For example, in March 2019, members of Georgia’s faith community showed up in force and successfully blocked a child welfare discrimination bill; in April 2019, local advocacy and business groups did the same thing in Tennessee. In Philadelphia, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling requiring foster care agencies to adhere to nondiscrimination policies.


Founding members of our Interfaith Coalition include the Hon. Ruth Messinger, Social Justice Activist and Consultant; Union Theological Seminary—Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Rev. Frederick A. Davie, Executive Vice President, Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean, Episcopal Divinity School at Union, and Miguel Escobar, Director of Anglican Studies, Episcopal Divinity School at Union; Rabbi David Sandmel, Director of Interreligious Engagement, ADL (Anti-Defamation League); Rabbi Steve Gutow, Visiting Scholar, The Wagner School, New York University.


Please send an email to Daniele Gerard at dgerard@childrensrights.org 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.


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