The Tennessee General Assembly struck a blow for religious freedom last week when the state Senate passed a bill that would protect faith-based adoption and foster care agencies from discrimination from the government for placing children with a married mom and dad. The vote was 20-6.

The state House of Representatives passed the bill last April. It is now headed for Gov. Bill Lee’s desk, and he has promised to sign it.

This is great news for children in need of either foster care or a forever family. Laws in other jurisdictions such as Philadelphia, Buffalo, Syracuse and Michigan have singled out faith-based agencies and forced them to either serve same-sex couples with their placements or cease their activities. That only results in fewer agencies dealing with the overwhelming need to find homes for kids.

The Tennessee bill summary states that the bill prohibits:

  1. Requiring a private licensed child-placing agency to perform, assist, consent to, refer or participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions;
  2. The Department of Children’s Services from denying an application for an initial license or renewal of a license or revoke the license of a private child-placing agency because of the agency’s objection to participating in a placement that violates the agency’s moral convictions;
  3.  A state or local government entity from denying to a private licensed child-placing agency any grant, contract or participation in a government program because of the agency’s objection to participating in a placement that violates the agency’s moral convictions; and

Basing a civil action for either damages or civil relief on the refusal of a private licensed child placing agency to participate in a placement that violates the agency’s moral convictions.

Many state adoption and foster care programs rely on federal funding. The Trump Administration is in the process of eliminating roadblocks created during the Obama Administration that allowed states using federal taxpayer funds to demand faith-based agencies give up their religious conscience objections to placing children with LGBT couples.

Even with the pending corrections to the federal government’s rules, state laws like the one in Tennessee are also needed to ensure that local programs utilizing only state funds provide the same room for religious conscience as federal programs.

We applaud Tennessee’s General Assembly and look forward to Gov. Lee’s official signing ceremony.

Photo from Wikipedia