LGBT, RFRA — April 21, 2015 at 7:03 am

ACTION: Voice opposition to RFRA adoption bills in Michigan Senate committee Wednesday


Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee to meet on bills that would allow adoption agencies to refuse placement of children based on religious objections.

Once again, the Michigan Legislature isn’t wasting any time moving forward with bills that could hurt Michigan children and families, and the voices of Michiganders who oppose faith-based discrimination need to be heard.

On Wednesday, April 22, the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee is meeting to discuss three dangerous bills (HB 4188, 4189 and 4190) that would allow child placement agencies to discriminate against families who want to adopt or become foster parents on the basis of the agencies’ “firmly held religious beliefs.” With the committee’s approval, the bills would move to the Senate floor for a vote.

Although this package of legislation is specific to adoption, make no mistake: It’s RFRA (“Religious Freedom Restoration Act”) legislation that would allow religion to be used to discriminate. Children could be denied placement in loving homes if an agency has religious objections to would-be parents.

This legislation puts the futures of more than 3,000 foster care children at risk — children who are waiting for loving homes. In fact, Michigan has 14,000 children in foster care at any time, so the problem is even bigger than the number of children currently waiting for homes.

It’s no secret that the legislation targets the LGBT community. Same-sex couples who want to adopt would be most likely to be discriminated against, especially because they have no protections under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. But, as is the case with all RFRA-type legislation, anyone who does not share the beliefs of the adoption agency could be turned away. A Christian-based agency could turn away a Jewish couple or vice versa. In fact, one woman who commented on the passage of these bills by the Michigan House in March said she and her husband were turned away by one such agency for not being “the right kind of Christian.”

Not only would the bills enshrine faith-based discrimination into law, they would protect public agencies that discriminate — which means taxpayer-funded agencies would be allowed to put their religious views over the interests of the general public.

The Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network (MUUSJN) issued an alert on Wednesday’s committee meeting, noting that MUUSJN’s Interfaith Reproductive Justice Coalition — representing Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Episcopal, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist activists — strongly opposes these RFRA bills. These bills are also opposed by a large business community coalition, Equality Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood and the Michigan National Organization of Women.

There are a number of ways you can be heard at the Senate committee meeting:

  • Attend the meeting at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, Room 210, Farnum Building, 125 W. Allegan Street in Lansing. It would be ideal to have a packed room of Michigan residents voicing their opposition to these bills.
  • Ask for your testimony in opposition to the legislation to be presented at the meeting. You can reach the committee clerk, Shane Carnagie, by email or by phone at 517-373-5323.
  • Call the Families, Senior & Human Services Committee Members:
    1. Senator Judy Emmons, Committee Chair (R-33rd District) 517-373-3760
    2. Senator Phil Pavlov, Vice Chair (R-25th District) 517-373-7708
    3. Senator Rick Jones (R-24th District) 517-373-3447
    4. Senator Tom Casperson (R-38th District) 517-373-7840
    5. Senator Bert Johnson (D-2nd District) 517-373-7748
  • UPDATE: Use the petitions from Equality Michigan and the Family Equality Council to send a message to the committee — an easy way to tell them not to let this legislation move forward.

You can also call Governor Rick Snyder at 517-373-3400 or 517-335-7858 and ask him to keep his promise to veto RFRA bills.

When you voice your opposition, acknowledge that freedom of religion is one of America’s fundamental rights, which is why it’s protected in the Constitution. But freedom of religion does not give anyone the right to harm others — which is exactly what would happen if children were denied loving homes because of a faith-based agency’s beliefs. Urge the committee members not to let these bills move forward. The best interests of children and families should come first.

[Image credit: Pixabay]