Sioux Falls chef and family man Bill Mawhiney offers his take on Senate Bill 149, the Legislature’s latest attempt to dress up discrimination as “religious freedom.” Mawhiney and his husband have adopted, so Mawhiney recognizes the harmful impacts SB 149 could have on adoptive parents and, more importantly, kids who need good homes:
The bill would allow child-placing agencies to deny services to a child because he or she is of a different religion, or discriminate against would-be parents because based upon their sexual orientation or marital status.
SB 149 would allow an agency that receives state funds to use religious criteria in choosing families for children. While the obvious target of the bill is to allow agencies to turn away gay and lesbian parents, in practice the law would open up the adoption system to all sorts of discrimination.
The bill would allow an adoption agency to turn away a loving aunt who could provide the best home for her nephew because she’s divorced. It could be used to stand in the way of adoption by interfaith families, or allow an adoption agency of one faith to say “no” to parents of another.
It’s wrong, and the people who will be hurt the most are the children in need of a home and the families who want to provide it [Bill Mawhiney, “Strengthen, Don’t Limit Foster Families,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.02.10].
Mawhiney’s mention of interfaith families reminds me that SB 149 targets my family. My wife and I have differing religious views. The results we see in our daughter so far suggest we parent with reasonable effectiveness. If we decide to adopt, SB 149 would allow certain adoption agencies to turn away our offer to do our best for a child in need.
I’ll be polite and say that’s counterproductive.
Mawhiney ought to have an easier time passing the SB 149 religious litmus test than I would. But he still rejects religious discrimination:
I’m a Christian and I believe in the freedom of religion. It’s one of the core values of our country. But freedom of religion shouldn’t be used as a reason to deny kids the home they need and deserve. Religious freedom is not a license to deny vulnerable children loving parents [Mawhiney, 2017.02.10].
Senate Health and Human Services deferred SB 149 last week to Wednesday, February 15.