Adoption Becomes the Latest Battleground in Religious Liberty Debate

November 30, 2017

by Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg


Kimberly Leonard, writing for the Washington Examiner, describes the clash between religious liberty and LGBT rights as it expands to include the issue of adoption. The issue is emotional and increasingly difficult to see clearly. In changing the definitions of marriage and family, the responsibility of raising children has been subordinated to the false notion that people have certain rights to have children. What has been obscured is the well-being of the children themselves, not to mention the rights of religious organizations to act in good conscience as they attempt to find safe and healthy homes for children in need.

Adoption by same-sex couples was made legal nationally in 2016. Religious organizations have naturally sought exemptions, but LGBT rights groups call these actions discriminatory. Leonard reports that “a bill supported by LGBTQ rights advocates, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, would prohibit agencies that receive state funds from denying adoption or foster care to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” However, there is also a counter bill called the Child Welfare Provider and Inclusion Act  that “would prohibit states from declining to partner with agencies because of their religious or moral beliefs.”

Although neither of these bills seems likely to advance through a GOP-controlled Congress, these battles are also raging at the state level. With the rising tide of LGBT propagandists, some of the state battles are beginning to attract national attention. Alabama, South Dakota, and Texas are providing exemptions for adoption agencies to deny certain parents children based on religious reasons. Several other states have similar exemptions.

Related skirmishes are also heating up in other states. For example, in Michigan:

[T]he American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of two same-sex couples against Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Children’s Services Agency for faith-based agencies’ refusal to accept applications from same-sex parents. According to the lawsuit, one representative told a lesbian couple that “same-sex couples aren’t our area of expertise.”

Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who introduced the religious exemption House bill, has said that the above-named lawsuit is the reason why this legislation protecting religious liberty must pass: “Cases like these prove the need for solutions like the Inclusion Act. It is not just based on fears of what could happen but a necessary response to things that are already happening. Religious liberty is under assault, and innocent children are in the crossfire.” Kelly puts his finger on the real issues: children and the quality of a family. The real debate is about what is healthy and edifying for children.

The Left sees it differently, however. State legislative director and senior counsel at Human Rights Campaign Cathryn Oakley claims, along with LGBT rights advocates, that the exemptions are “really a license to discriminate.” Her concerns and the concerns of the LGBT rights community are that the exemptions are so broad they could include excluding Muslims, interfaith couples, and single parents. They also worry about denying the placement of gay or transgender children with families who would affirm their identity.

While compelling on the surface, these arguments are merely meant to distract from the real issues. For example, Oakley states: “There’s also a dignitary harm in saying, ‘We don’t serve people like you, but we know someone who doesn’t have the same principles and are willing to serve people like you.'” However, the real dignitary harm is to children if we fail to understand that this issue is about them, not people “like you.” People who choose to live in such a way that is potentially harmful to children are rightfully scrutinized.

The final distracting argument is mathematical: There are many children in need of homes, and if same-sex couples are prevented from adopting, children won’t be placed in loving homes. But it is irresponsible to hold placement in a home as the highest good without considering the quality of the home and family.

At least this last argument brings us back to the real issue, however: the nature of the family. Our focal point ought to be children and their well-being. Children are not commodities to be bartered or turned into political footballs. On this issue, there are no rights more important than the rights of the vulnerable and innocent children who need safe and stable homes.

Children have a natural right to a mother and father, a fact that takes precedence over the “rights” of same-sex couples. But LGBT advocates have reversed the equation, touting the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children without regard for the questions that ought to precede it. Now, this vital ethical deliberation is being left to courts increasingly bereft of a moral compass. Let us at least attempt to put children first.


Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a writer in residence and teacher of philosophy and theology at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta. He is also a senior contributor to The Imaginative Conservative and has written for numerous venues on matters of faith, culture and education.

Archive: Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

15 comments on “Adoption Becomes the Latest Battleground in Religious Liberty Debate”

  • nino says:

    “Now, this vital ethical deliberation is being left to courts increasingly bereft of a moral compass. Let us at least attempt to put children first.”

    The courts are supposed to interpret law, not enforce Rummelsburg’s flavor of right wing “morals”, morals lacking any human decency. Children first? He puts his dogma first.

  • kaysha says:

    Religious exemption?
    That’s called not grabbing my tax money to help finance your adoption agency. Do that and then you can have your religious exemption. Otherwise, what you want is state religion–not religious freedom. What arrogance!

  • kern says:

    Steven Jonathan’s headline would have a reasonable reader believe “religious liberty” is being violated if gay couples adopt. Yet, nowhere does he make it clear that whose “religious liberty” has been violated. He has a vicious tendency to smear gay people.

    Steven Jonathan has an transparent proclivity to despise gay people. He has an obsession with homosexuality and this bigotry reeks in almost everything he writes.

    Why does he claim gay couples are violating adoption agencies’s “religious liberty” when a reasonable reader sees that this article seems to be making a case that there should be laws barring qualified gay couples from adopting children? Does he advocate having laws barring Christian adoption agencies from allowing gay couples to adopt?

    Religious liberty? Steven Jonathan hates gays.

  • Jui says:

    This is not a religious liberty issue. So-called “religious” adoption services that hate gay couples are not being forced to give those couples a child–not unless they take tax payer money. If these “religious” adoption services want to discriminate, then don’t be greedy and take my money.

    We know Steven hates gay people and thus it is no surprise he doesn’t want same-sex couples to adopt. His brand of “religion” trumps what is best for children. His bigotry is all over The National Pulse. He is dishonest in turning this into an issue of “religious liberty.”

    Now if he is proposing that the state ban same-sex marriage, then indeed that is a religious liberty issue. That would interfere with Christian adoption agencies allowing gay couples to adopt.

    • Steven Jonathan says:

      Jui and Jim,

      Answer this question, where do you think an adopted child would be better off, in a home with a faithful Catholic married man and woman or in a same sex household? Be honest and give me three reasons why you believe the Catholic household would be better for the wellbeing of the child.

      • Jui says:

        It is not better or worse when it comes to sexual orientation. Steven is the supremist bigot who believes he is better than gays. I, on the other hand, think I am no better or worse than a heterosexual. Adoption cases should be handled on an individual basis. Is the family loving and stable.

        Of course Steven typically dodged the point asked. Are you using the state to force Christian Churches to discriminate against gay couples?

      • Steven Jonathan says:

        I have to admit Jui, that was a good dodge- so you are saying that a child could be equally well off in an openminded loving, accepting gay environment or a hateful bigoted racist totalitarian Catholic environment? Contradict yourself much? Beautifully said Jui, thank you!

      • jui says:

        Actually you dodged Steven. Nice try!

        I said it should be taken on an individual basis. That is clearly written in my post. You lie.

        Moreover my Catholic parents lovingly raised me in an environment supportive of gay rights. They attended my Christian same-sex marriage. You are the one calling all Catholics hateful and racist. Shame on you.

        And you have dodged. Is this article calling for the state to force Christian Churches to discriminate against gay couples in its adoption policies?

        You dodge a lot!

      • jim says:

        Steven

        Your question is a bit bizzare. Personally, I would need to know more information than the fact that the families in your question are Catholic or same-sex. Perhaps you don’t realize that there is more to raising a child than being Catholic or gay. It is like me asking you to make a decision between a Catholic family or an interracial family. So in answer to your question, if the adoption agency is Catholic and not receiving public funding, I totally support that agency discriminating in favor of the Catholic heterosexual Catholic couple. That is religious freedom.

        I notice that you dodged a question. Is this article advocating for the government to force other Christian Adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples?

      • Steven Jonathan says:

        Perfect answer Jui!

        Jim thanks for answering, it wasn’t a serious question, it was just interesting to see the responses, kind of what I was expecting.

        Please continue with the vitriolic monologue….

      • jim says:

        Steven dodged again!
        It is a compulsion.

      • jui says:

        Vitriolic?

        You are the one calling Catholics racists. If there is anything vitriolic, it is rooted in Steven’s words.

        Why did you dodge my question?

      • kern says:

        Yes his rhetoric against gay people is vitriolic. He is also deliberately vague about his motivation. Does he want the government to bar gay people from adopting? Does his anti-gay agenda come before the well-being of children, some of whom also are gay?

        Steven Jonathan is intellectually dishonest.

    • Jui says:

      Yes Kern, he is vitriolic. But he is also dishonest. My initial post in no way indicated that I advocate denying Catholics the right to adopt. It was a disgusting question on his part. On the other hand, it is Steven who denigrates gay families and indeed indicates that he wants a law barring us from adopting.

  • jim says:

    Religious Liberty Debate?

    It sure is a religious liberty debate. Steven and his right wing religionists seem to want to use the brute force of government to prevent decent Christian Churches from letting very qualified, loving same-sex married couples from adopting children.

    Once again Steven shows us he despises religious liberty.
    Thanks for making that clear Steven! Your bigotry comes before children!

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