WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania, have introduced companion bills titled the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2015.
The measure would prohibit the federal government — and states that receive federal funds for child welfare services — from taking any actions against an agency that declines to provide child welfare social services for religious or moral reasons.
The legislation “rightly … protects the religious liberties and moral convictions of all child welfare providers. No providers are excluded by the act,” the chairmen of three U.S. bishops’ committees said in March 9 letters to Enzi and Kelly.
Signing the letter were Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
Most religious organizations cannot provide certain child welfare services without receiving a license and funds from the government, and most states provide government-funded child welfare services through various religious, charitable and private organizations.
In some states, faith-based agencies have been forced to drop out of the adoption business because they could not get an exemption from regulations requiring agencies contracting with the state not to discriminate against same-sex couples who seek to adopt children.
Opponents of the measure say the government should put children’s needs before groups who are “claiming religious rights.”
Enzi said in a March 4 statement the legislation “will help ensure faith-based providers and individuals can continue to work alongside other agencies and organizations and that adoptive and foster parents have access to the provider of their choice.”