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Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Services Harm Children

The Bottom Line

Freedom of religion is an important American value, which is why it is already protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. That freedom doesn’t give people the right to impose their beliefs on others or to discriminate. Yet a growing number of states, and the federal government, have passed or are considering legislation that would allow child placement and adoption agencies to do just that, while providing government services paid for with taxpayer money.

Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Services Harm Children details how religious exemptions for child welfare providers hurt children and vulnerable families. Agencies that provide services to children and parents should focus on providing loving, stable homes for children and helping families in need. Instead, these laws encourage and enable adoption agencies and their workers to reject qualified parents who don’t share the agency’s or worker’s religious beliefs.

Rejecting qualified parents simply means a longer wait for children in government group homes and foster care rather than being adopted into forever homes,placed into kinship or guardianship placements, or reunited with their families. Families may go without supportive services, increasing the likelihood of children being removed.

As if these consequences weren’t serious enough, these laws also enable workers and organizations to prioritize their own religious beliefs when determining treatment options for children in their care. The potential for abuse of this legislation is far-reaching, as agencies and individual workers—like all Americans—have a broad range of beliefs, and these laws would legally prioritize those religious beliefs over the best interests of children.

To learn more about the campaign and to watch the TV ad rejected by FOX New Channel as too powerful, click here.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. September 2017. Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Services Harm Children. (date of access).

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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