There are more than 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system that want and need a loving family. Some refer to them as “legal orphans”—children who have been permanently removed from their parents due to abuse or neglect. Christian agencies have responded to this need with great success. For instance, Bethany has continuously increased its adoptive placement of children from foster care as we remain committed to our vision that every child needs to have a loving family. But these efforts by Bethany and the Christian community are being challenged by the erosion of religious freedom.
Though Bethany and other faith-based organizations have excellent reputations for the work they perform, research (by the Barna Group and Gallup) continues to show that society in general has a negative view of Christians. Pressure from U.S. courts and governmental departments seem to be pushing faith-based organizations into a corner, requiring them to choose between operating and practicing their faith. This is evidenced by instances such as Catholic Charities adoption and foster care program closures in Massachusetts and Illinois, as well as multiple challenges for evangelical adoption agencies in those states.
Here are some of the religious freedom threats due to policy and legislation:
• The required licensing and placement of children with same-sex couples
• The required licensing and placement of children with unmarried couples
• The elimination of the right to hire based on an organization’s religious beliefs
• The right of agencies to choose foster and adoptive parents based on religious beliefs
• Proposed laws introduced by some legislatures that would eliminate nonprofit status to organizations that hire staff based on their religious beliefs
In addition, many faith-based organizations are currently being required to provide medical plans that include a full array of birth control services, including abortion-inducing drugs.
Christ calls us to be the salt of the earth (see Matt. 5:13). Salt preserves, prevents decay, and enhances the taste of food. Our worldview is to be like salt—to preserve life, prevent the decay of society, and to protect and enhance the lives of children and families. But how can we be salt to ensure the existence of high-quality programs that lead to children being placed in Christian homes?
We are working every day to protect our religious freedom. We are partnering with organizations like Focus on the Family, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation, and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance to safeguard religious freedom. But we need those who stand with us to let their voice be heard. Bethany recently testified to support legislation that would protect religious freedom. But the sponsor of the bill received only a handful of emails in support of it, and over 7,000 emails from those who did not approve. I do not believe that is representative of public opinion, but rather a weakness in our network.
We will work to keep you informed about these threats and ask for your help in advocating for religious freedom. Please let your voices be heard by contacting your local congressman and senators.