All one Oregon mom wanted for Christmas was to welcome children from the foster care system into her family. Instead, she is suing the state of Oregon for religious discrimination.

Oregon is refusing to let Jessica Bates adopt foster siblings because her Christian beliefs about human sexuality. She believes boys and girls are biologically different and those differences are good and should be celebrated.

Oregon state officials say Bates is unfit to adopt or even participate in the foster system because she will not agree to use preferred pronouns or assist a child in a gender transition.

Last week, Bates filed a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after the lower court ruled against her.

The case is Bates v. Pakseresht.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Bates in the matter.

Bates is a Christian and mother to five children between the ages of 10 and 17. She was widowed in 2017 when her husband died in a car accident. She and her husband were in the car together when they were struck by a criminal trying to outrun the police.

Bates was lucky to survive. Her faith helped her through that difficult period of loss and mourning.

Sometime later, after listening to a Christian radio broadcast about a man who adopted a child from the foster system, she felt the Lord call her to adopt a sibling pair. In March 2022, Bates began the process of adopting from the Oregon foster system.

ADF explains in their complaint that Oregon’s Department of Human Services created a regulation requiring potential adoptive families to “accept” and “support” the sexual orientation and gender identity of any child the state places in their home.

Bates’ attorneys assert in their complaint, “Under this rule, caregivers must agree to use a child’s preferred pronouns, take a child to affirming events like Pride parades, or sign the child up for dangerous pharmaceutical interventions like puberty blockers and hormone shots — no matter a child’s age, no matter whether a child actually desires these things, and no matter how deeply these requirements violate the caregiver’s religious convictions.”

Bates told state officials that she would happily care for and accept any child, but she could not subscribe to beliefs and actions that go against her Christian faith. As a result, the state denied her application to adopt.

ADF asserts the following three constitutional violations:

1. Oregon’s policy violates Bates’ First Amendment rights to free-speech, assembly and free-association by requiring her to speak words that violate her faith beliefs, associate with messages that violate her faith beliefs and regulate her speech in content and viewpoint in order to adopt.

2. The policy violates Bates’ First Amendment right to free exercise of her religion because the policy is not neutral or generally applicable. It categorically excludes people of faith from participation and serves as a religious litmus test.

3. The policy violates Bates’ Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law because she is treated worse than other similarly situated people because of her religion.

In April, Bates filed suit in federal district court to stop Oregon’s Department of Human Services’ acts of religious discrimination. Oral arguments were held in August.

The federal district court issued their opinion in November and ruled against Bates.

We will continue to follow the case and share updates.


Image credit: ADF