.- Three chairmen of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference have voiced strong support for a measure that would restore certain religious freedoms to child welfare providers.
The recently introduced Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017 would prevent the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.
Under the previous administration, several faith-based child welfare providers in multiple states including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have been forced to shut down their adoption and foster care services because of beliefs that children should be placed with a married mother and father.
In the case of Illinois, more than 3,000 children were displaced after religiously affiliated adoption and foster care services had to close their doors. Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois decided to cut ties from their affiliated Catholic diocese and operate as a separate Christian non-profit in order to maintain consistent services for the children.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln expressed their support for the Inclusion Act in letters to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate, who introduced the bill.
"The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination by enabling all providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers' religious beliefs and moral convictions," the bishops said.
“Our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of children. The Inclusion Act protects the freedom of all child welfare providers by ensuring they will not be discriminated against by the government because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions,” they wrote.
The Bishops also stressed that the Inclusion Act respects the religious freedom of parents who are looking to place their children into adoption or foster care services.
“Women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose an agency that shares the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions. The Inclusion Act recognizes and respects this parental choice.”