The Next ‘Religious Freedom’ Debate: Using Tax Dollars to Discriminate in Adoption


There is a fairly straightforward plot to have religious exemptions undermine the rule of law, and it goes like this: Declare that one person’s actions or identity violates the religious beliefs of another person or institution—like Hobby Lobby. Insist the government subsidize the operations of institutions practicing illegal discrimination—like Catholic schools that rake in vouchers and fire pregnant teachers. And twist and turn the courts and legislatures until civil rights and human rights laws are turned into mechanisms for restricting the rights of people who have not yet been fully accepted as equals in the first place.

This, proponents say, is religious liberty, and these claims reached absurd new heights recently when Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced the so-called Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (S. 2706, H.R. 5285). This bill aims to give a fundamental right to government funding to those adoption and foster care agencies that refuse to place children with families that might violate their religious beliefs. To put it in real-talk, this bill is explicitly about denying same-sex couples and single adults opportunities to parent, but implicitly its sweeping language could as well be used against mixed-race couples, ethnic minorities, and prospective parents of disfavored religions.

The federal government and states using federal funding to provide child welfare services would be expressly prohibited from “denying a child welfare service provider’s application for funding, refusing to renew the provider’s funding, canceling the provider’s funding,” or even “declining to enter into a contract [emphasis mine] with the provider” that claims to operate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs that just so happen to include discrimination against people on the basis of identity. Those institutions that claim to have been denied government funding because of their wish to discriminate would be granted standing to sue, and states that accept federal funding would be understood to waive sovereign immunity for any such claim. A state found in violation of not awarding a contract to a discriminating institution would be subject to a 15 percent cut in federal funding for child welfare services.

It’s presumptuous, and cruel. In what universe is any private institution providing services in a competitive marketplace entitled to public funding? Apparently a universe where children without stable homes are denied the opportunity to join a loving family because of someone else’s bigotry.

It’s no surprise the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is crowing with delight. This is not just about “religious liberty,” it’s about money! (While the Vatican is notoriously tight-lipped about its finances, in one instructive example the executive director of Catholic Charities Inc.-Wichita Diocese told The Wichita Eagle last year that about half of its $8 million budget came from government funding, mostly federal funding.)

In 2006, Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese ended its adoption program to, as the right-leaning The Washington Times put it, “avoid placing children with homosexuals.” California followed suit later that year. In 2010, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington shut down its foster care and public adoption program after the D.C. City Council passed a law requiring religious entities providing services to the general public to accommodate same-sex couples. This pattern continued in Illinois in 2011 and it’s not difficult to see where this is going, as 19 states have come to permit same-sex marriage and through lawsuits that number continues to increase steadily.

When it seems inevitable that marriage equality will someday be the law of the land, Catholic Charities appears to have two choices: stop discriminating, or get out of the adoption business. Instead, a third way has emerged. That way is passing a law that turns express discrimination into an entitlement to government largesse.

Real religious liberty acknowledges that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. False religious liberty is insisting that free exercise means the government must privilege a particular religious viewpoint at the expense of a secular public with basic civil and human rights.

It’s disturbing enough as it is, but it gets worse when considered in the context of a broader picture. Proponents of this most perverted take on religious liberty are working—and winning —a strategy to undermine access to birth control, so there will be more unwanted pregnancies. They are working—and winning—a strategy to undermine access to abortion, so there will be more unwanted children. And now they are working to undermine the availability of homes to those children, unless those homes follow the dictates of one particular religious viewpoint.

It may be that some are so naïve to believe that if you claim that sexuality is sinful, people will ignore their own deeply felt and hardwired desires to have sex.

But a more shrewd point of view reveals that ultra-conservative forces hate same-sex couplings because the religious right is, among other things, deeply afraid of a “European-style demographic winter,” as stated in a non-public strategic document obtained from the National Organization for Marriage. More recently, the media-savvy Pope Francis is urging his faithful to have more kids.

Connecting the dots between the attacks on birth control, abortion, and now adoption, perhaps the real desire is to have more babies born that can be placed into the homes of families belonging to a certain religion. And to add another notch in the belt of “religious liberty” crusaders who are completely, totally, and vehemently anti-government unless there is money to collect.

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  • StealthGaytheist

    I’m sick of religious zealots holding their hands out for taxpayer money then demanding they be allowed to discriminate against taxpayers with it.

    • roccolore

      Yet you defend radical Islam, which advocate killing gays.

      • Dez

        Cite your evidence.

        • roccolore

          Liberals are unpatriotic because they hate our troops. Liberals hate the First Amendment and want to criminalize Christianity. And I have never see a liberal protest or criticize radical Islam. Democrats like you hate the Constitution.

          • Dez

            Yea that’s why liberals are the ones advocating that muslim americans lose their first amendment rights. How is that patriotic? You can believe in magic like Christianity all you want. You just cant force non-christians to believe in your nonsense. Of course you want a christian theocracy and start executing non-christians and gays.

          • roccolore

            Liberals defend Islam because they are anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. I find it funny that Democrats like you defend Islam, which advocates killing gays and stoning rape victims. Democrats like you are unpatriotic because you hate our troops.

          • Dez

            So Muslims aren’t entitled to the first amendment of the constitution? How is that not unpatriotic? Do you not understand that the laws that prevent Christians from killing gays and women are the same ones that stop Muslims from doing that?

      • StealthGaytheist

        I never defended Islam of any variety.

  • dudebro

    Of course, fundies also want public funding for their religious schools and hospitals – where they can use that money to let women die from pregnancy complications

    • roccolore

      Democrats attack Christianity while advocating funding for mosques.

      • conversate

        Democrats criticize christian bigotry

      • fiona64

        Citation needed.

  • fiona64

    If you take public funds, you can’t discriminate. Period.

    • Shan

      The whackadoodle thing is that they think they’re NOT discriminating (against minorities, gays, women, whoever). Because discrimination is part of their “sincerely held” beliefs and so they should be allowed to continue doing it otherwise they think THEY are being discriminated against because FIRST AMENDMENT. Same goes with the “fetal personhood” laws where they want to give legal “personhood” right to some cells recently created in an already existing legal person.

      If their logic could be represented visually, it would look like an M.C. Escher painting.

      • SeaLioness

        Best. Comment. Ever.

        • Shan

          Thanks, but nah. Hang around, I’m sure you’ll see plenty more!

    • roccolore

      Then maybe the gay rights groups shouldn’t get funding since they are anti-Christian.

      • conversate

        They are anti-bigot, and fundamentalist Christians = bigots

      • fiona64

        I know some gay Christians who would be very surprised to learn that.

        However, suppose you cite one gay rights group that is receiving Federal funds. I’ll wait.

  • Nicko Thime

    Religion will use whatever lie it has to in order to inveigle itself into our secular government. Just remember that theocracy is totalitarian by nature.

    • cybersleuth58

      “theocracy is totalitarian by nature.” Good point!

  • raytheist

    As long as the gov’t puts out RFPs for contracts, there will be agencies willing to provide the services.

  • fiona64

    And so what? I say again: if you take Federal funds, you cannot discriminate. Catholic Charities closed its doors in Massachusetts because it would rather discriminate than take Federal funds. It’s their right to do so. The answer is simple: either follow Federal law, or don’t take Federal funds. Easy-peasy.

    • cybersleuth58

      Except they’ve already won with Hobby Lobby. I wish it were that simple but: they stand to have traction with the argument that homosexuality and abortion violate their “religious” rights. It’s sad, but true. They were not able to get away with that when the issue was interracial marriage, but it was a different time and we had politicians with some courage. (JFK, LBJ, etc).

  • lady_black

    Then in that case, they will promptly be replaced with people who will run social services without discriminating. That’s a GOOD thing.

  • cactuspie

    For years people have been objecting to federal taxes which support war and violates their religious beliefs. They have all been crushed. So why is this different? Why does this or Hobby Lobby get traction now?

    • cybersleuth58

      Because contrary to their claims of oppression/victimhood, religious conservatives still are the majority and hold disproportionate power in government. They’ve been very very smart about this. They’ve quietly and patiently inserted themselves into positions of power in every state in the US, virtually assuring they control the moral direction of the country. They understood the concept of States rights and began getting their people elected way back in the 1970’s when feminists and liberals believed that the answer was to have candidates elected to National office. Their strategy was both brilliant and insidious. With the Koch family’s fingerprints on just about every right wing organization in the US, it’s a no brainer that unlimited funds had a lot to do with it.

  • cjvg

    Not out of charity, if they did not get paid it would stop real quick

  • lady_black

    Catholic Health Services and Catholic Charities are DEPENDENT upon the federal government to provide social services. There, I fixed it for you.

  • cjvg

    Dishonest and patently false “argument”

    Secular hospitals and non for profits are just as capable at providing healthcare services.In fact they are better at it, at least they follow the directives of best health care practices instead of those of untrained and unqualified “spiritual” leaders dictating their religious views on what procedures can be provided.

    Fact is that Northern Europe and Canada do not use catholic hospitals to provide healthcare and their healthcare outcomes and the health of their citizens are head and shoulders above those of the US

    • Arekushieru

      Agreed! It seems Cynic should go watch some TV and come back and tell me why Tommy Douglas, the one who enacted our universal healthcare system, the so-called ‘father of medicare’ was just voted as one of the front runners in an online poll not too long ago following another poll from a decade ago where he was listed as the Greatest Canadian BY Canadians if our health care system is so despised and hated because we don’t consider charity ‘good enough’ for the poor, while the wealthy can just jump ahead of the queue any time they like in those state of art run medical facilities they access so easily?

      • cjvg

        These types always use the same story, they always have “Canadian friends” who come here for their health care. How odd then that I never hear an actual Canadian tell me that. I currently live in Florida so it is not like I never encounter Canadians

        • Arekushieru

          Heh, I was there, once! Of course, to visit Disney World! That might be why you run into a lot of Canadians, no?

        • conversate

          I am Canadian. Dont need to go to the USA for healthcare

        • redlemon

          I very, very rarely hear of Canadians coming to the US for treatment. But I also live in Michigan, in a city that happens to be right on the border. Usually it’s because the Canadian was on the US side when stuff happened.

          My Canadian professor said he often saw a doctor on the US side. But usually because it was on his way home from work.

    • Arekushieru

      Unfortunately, charities aren’t doing very well, here, either. The rules for charitable donations to political parties have been changed and have become more restrictive. Also, their purpose is no longer to prevent poverty but ‘alleviate’ it. Somehow, that’s a more noble goal than the former. Ugh.

      • cjvg

        It seems that even Canada has taken a hard turn towards the cruel and uncaring right lately. Harper, is he not the guy responsible for attempting to turn Canada into America lite?
        I sure hope Canada can stop this unfortunate turn, after all your citizens only have to take a look at how “good” Americans have it compared to them. How did this guy ever get elected? However the point still stands, catholic charities are not needed to provide healthcare.

        • Arekushieru

          Precisely.

          And, yes, Harper is also the one who cut funding to agencies that provide abortion or are affiliated with Pro-Choice organizations such as International Planned Parenthood. I SO want him out of here, next election!

  • colleen2

    We are not dependant on the Roman Catholic church for social services. The Roman Catholic church is dependent on us US taxpayers and the USCCB (disguised as Catholic community servcices) indeed bids for the contracts to provide these services. WE taxpayers fund them, not the other way around.
    I would like to stop being forced to fund the Roman Catholic church, being forced to do so offends my sincerely held religious beliefs.They should not be allowed public funding for ANYTHING, including their hospitals. I believe that before entities like the RCC have a say in anything they should be required to pay taxes, just like any adult person or business.
    The folks who need to be careful what they wish for are the religious right.

    • cybersleuth58

      You are so correct on every point. What is tragic, however, are the so called “faith based” groups who do a great job providing community based services (Lutheran Social Services is one) while somehow managing to avoid discrimination. I’ve noticed that Lutheran Social Services is changing their name; I suspect it is bc they don’t want to discourage people from seeking help who wrongly believe they will be subjected to pressure to conform to religious dogma. There was a time when Catholic Charities did a lot of good and didn’t poke their noses into the private lives of the client base. That was back when the church had more people like the Nuns on the Bus. They are doing themselves and the poor a great disservice by putting ideology ahead of mission. Add to that the fact it is completely contrary to the message of the NT, in which Jesus explicitly warned against the danger of religious hypocrites – the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Ironically, he gave no such warnings about gays or uppity women!)

  • Shan

    When I was a new poster, my comments didn’t show up immediately, either.

  • cybersleuth58

    Apologies for nitpicking: The NH Union Leader is “right-leaning.” Calling the Washington Times “right-leaning” is like calling the Attila the Hun a moderate. The Washington Times is nothing more than a right wing propaganda machine, founded by arch-conservative cult leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Why are so many competent people pretending otherwise? The Times is a tabloid like the Enquirer; the latter probably has better writers.

    Equating the WashingtonTimes with legitimate papers like the Boston Globe is like pretending that Fox is “fair and balanced.” Kudos for making the effort but… why do legitimate journalists play this game? A news organization should not be right or left leaning. When it has a liberal or conservative bent, it ceases to be NEWS. Why should I have to point this out to a journalist?

    It was once incomprehensible to me that Hitler was able to rise to power, but then I learned of the complicity of the German media, particularly the press, who were as blind to brown shirt propaganda as today’s media is blind to the blatant lies propagated by the far right on a daily basis. How can the press be so so blithely complicit. (The runup to the Iraq war and the bald faced lies hoisted upon the public are classic examples!)

    Moving on: I’m very glad that you have exposed this con for what it is. Again, right wing twisting of the truth while MOST of the media looks the other way. Here is what really troubles me:

    “its sweeping language could as well be used against mixed-race couples, ethnic minorities, and prospective parents of disfavored religions.” The implication being: while it’s “kinda” tragic that it will “deny same-sex couples the opportunity to parent…” the real alarming thing is that it could impact the people we DO have sympathy for…

    My first problem – the primary issue isn’t the denial of same sex couples the right to parent, although that IS troubling. The main problem is that kids will be needlessly stuck languishing in the foster care system – which at best is inadequate, at it’s worst, is abusive – when there are loving, same sex couples who could provide them with a stable, healthy, nurturing environment. The welfare of the child(ren) should always take precedence in these cases. There is NO excuse to deny them their right to a loving home on the basis of religious beliefs (bigotry) of the people running these organizations. The very scary part is, in light of Hobby Lobby, it could very well fly.

    Isn’t it sad that the majority has never seemed to wake up to the fact that NO ONE is safe when the ANY minority group is oppressed? Here’s a clue straight people: it never stops with the people no one likes – whether it’s the LGBT community, people of color, undocumented migrant workers, whomever… Eventually that pile is gonna land on your front lawn and you’re gonna be the one stepping in it.

    So next time you don’t care because it’s only impacting your poor neighbors on welfare, or the gay couple in the next building, or the mixed race couple across the street, remember that it’s not a very long stretch until it impacts you. If you don’t oppose this because you care about social justice, oppose it because the narcissist in all of us realizes that no one is immune to overreach by fanatics.

  • blfdjlj

    Until very recently, the mere concept of same-sex adoption was seen as ridiculous. Now, it is accepted. Still, can’t Catholic nonprofits be exempt? A same-sex couple trying to adopt from a Catholic agency is like a black person trying to join the KKK and get equal treatment. Even the Senate-passed version of ENDA included an exemption for religious nonprofits.

    • Shan

      “A same-sex couple trying to adopt from a Catholic agency is like a black person trying to join the KKK and get equal treatment.”

      Very bad analogy. Is the KKK tax exempt at all? Do they get tax money to facilitate social services from which they claim they should be exempt from performing because they have religious objections to them?

    • P. McCoy

      It was “ridiculous” to be a Catholic in the United States too at one time and proven to be wise if one read about how Irish soldiers turned traitor during the Mexican-American War and fell for Mexican propaganda written by Catholic clergy telling them that they should not be fighting with Protestant heretics against their suffering co religionists in.Mexico. Thus the infamous San Patricios fighting unit was born, members which are still honored as heroes every March 17th in Mexico. If the United States had adopted the Penal Laws of the UK, such a deed would have never occurred. Under the Penal Laws Catholics, could neither be lawyers- no judges nor physicians nor politicians. Or participate in the military. If the former professions had been closed to Catholics as well as other rabid evangelicals, we would not be involved in this 41 year struggle over abortion and contraception rights.

  • Arekushieru

    Like Shan mentioned below, those charities would not claim tax exempt status and then ALSO turn around and claim that forcing them to provide services that go against their conscience would violate whatever strictly held premise to which they adhered. Partly because they may not be ABLE to. If these charities want to be tax exempt and only provide services to which they agree. then any person they employ should be able to claim tax exempt status from them (meaning, they should not have to pay the taxes in order to purchase services that would normally be packaged with their benefits, so the employers should be forced to pay the taxes on that) AND they should be able to do so while claiming that these employers should be unable to discriminate against THEM for their sincerely held religious beliefs (iow, they should not be able to withhold providing services as part of their employee benefits if these come as part of their sincerely held religious beliefs). (What I’m SAYING is that these religious charities are shooting themselves in the foot without realizing it by claiming religious freedom, yet public charities are not doing it, partly because they simply can’t).

  • Arekushieru

    Huh? These people will fire pregnant teachers but at the same time they want to be able to deny providing contraceptive services to women through the insurance for which they PAID??? Sheesh, people. Learn2Jesus. He was NOT a hypocrite like you, after all. He actually has a special HATRED for people like you.

  • lady_black

    They do NOT need to do it “on their own” but if they did, they would do a better job of it. I’m still upset that I was denied a tubal ligation by a Catholic hospital for no better reason than their religious beliefs. Their religious beliefs do not trump what the patient needs. EVER.

  • Arekushieru

    Canadians do NOT pay out of pocket. Refer to my second last comment on this thread. Now I KNOW you’re just talking out of your a$$. Whoops.

  • Arekushieru

    Uh, yeah. You have quite a bit of difficulty with logic, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s… most likely a duck, NOT something else. Ignoramus. Yeah, you don’t have much reading comprehension, either. Cjvg just SAID that she has quite a lot of people telling her that but no actual Canadian. Guess what, Canadian, here. My mom went to the United States and had everything paid for because of Universal Healthcare. If she lived in the States she would be bankrupt and paralyzed, right now. The only reason she WENT to the States was because they only OFFERED the treatment, there, and that has NOTHING to do with Universal Healthcare. After all, the city in which I live? Houses the University of Alberta, KNOWN for it’s research and innovation. Oops.

  • P. McCoy

    We need to disenfranchise Catholic power and influence in the politics of the United States and other right wing political groups posing as churches. One way to start is by asking our elected officials why are we willing to give a visa to a political person that advocates homophobic and misogynistic views towards members of our populace? If Catholics want to see the Pope, let them go to Rome or another Catholic country or friend to this cult to do it. Purveyors of hate speech and advocates of endangering Women’s lives should be forbidden to set foot in the United States!

  • cjvg

    Unfortunately your assertion that the catholic hospitals DO follow best medical practices is still in moderation, however I will refute it here!
    Maybe you should read this article in the American Journal of Bioethics Primary Research
    http://www.ansirh.org/_documents/libr...

    Some quotes from that;
    “A recent national survey revealed that over half of obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic hospitals have conflicts with religious policies”

    “catholic doctrine impacted physicians‘ abilities to offer treatment to women experiencing certain obstetric emergencies, such as pregnancy-related health problems, molar pregnancy, miscarriage, or pre-viable premature rupture of membranes (PPROM),
    because hospital authorities perceived treatment as equivalent to a prohibited abortion. Physicians were contractually obligated to follow doctrine-based policies while practicing in these Catholic hospitals.”

    “Conclusions: For some physicians, their hospital’s prohibition on abortion initially seemed congruent with their own principles, but when applied to cases in which patients were already losing
    a desired pregnancy and/or the patient’s health was at risk, some physicians found the institutional restrictions on care to be unacceptable.”

    “While information about what exactly takes place in Catholic hospital ethics committee meetings is hard to find, physicians report that they are generally led by clergy without medical training. The ultimate authority on ethics committee disputes is the local bishop.” OR

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162…Here is one that should bother you “It’s not like the old days. Doctors are no longer gods. Now we have bishops who are gods.” OR

    http://www.care2.com/causes/catholic-...

    Obviously you are asthoundingly and earth shatteringly wrong, catholic hospitals clearly do NOT follow best medical practices and do not protect the health and fertility of their patients when those patients happen to be female!