Secular Coalition Urges VA Senate Not to Pass ‘Religious Refusal’ Bill Regarding Adoption

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Secular Coalition today urged the Virginia State Senate not to pass Virginia House Bill No. 189, a bill to that would add “religious refusal” language to the existing laws governing child placement agencies.

The bill would allow state-funded faith-based agencies to turn away potential adoptive parents based on the adoptive parents’ sexual orientation or the agencies’ written religious policies.

The Virginia House overwhelmingly voted to pass the bill last week and the Senate is expected to vote on the same measure this week. Democrats in the Virginia House unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation which would have banned discrimination by agencies that receive taxpayer funds.

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, said the bill is discriminatory and unconstitutionally privileges religion using taxpayer funding.

“This bill favors the rights of religious organizations over the rights of taxpayers and the very children the agencies are set up to help,” Silverman said. “This is discrimination being passed off as religious liberty.”

According to the Washington Post, Virginia has 77 private agencies, 16 of them are faith-based. In 2011, faith-based agencies placed 557 of the state’s 2,503 adoptions. Those agencies and 120 local social services departments received $144 million in state and federal taxpayer funds for child placement last year. According to the same article, in a Washington Post poll last year, 55 percent of Virginians said they believe that gay couples should be able to legally adopt children.

The issue of religious liberty is being widely debated across the country. Catholic church bishops are vigorously opposing a regulation put in place by the Obama Administration that will require most employers to include contraception coverage in their health care plans.

Several states, including Illinois and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to adopt. In 2011, Catholic Charities, which received state funds to provide foster care and adoption services in Illinois, ended its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples.

“The proponents of religious refusal are asking the government to deny fellow citizens rights based on their own views of religion and morality,” Silverman said. “Religious liberty doesn’t give organizations the right to use taxpayer dollars to force their views on others or to discriminate.” 

There are 1,300 children waiting to be adopted in Virginia. Passing this bill would put the beliefs of the agency providing placement over the welfare of children.


CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager …….. 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or lauren@secular.org

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