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Solano & Haugaard Wrap Religious Discrimination Ploy Around Adoption Agencies

You know, I was adopted once. I’m not sure my parents would have been able to pass any religious test, but they did a good job on me (thanks, Mom! thanks, Dad!).

But the latest Republican “Sharia for Jesus” ploy might have given their adoption agency the right to say, “Y’all aren’t on fire for the Lord enough—no baby Cory for you!”

Senate Bill 149, introduced by Senator Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City) and Representative Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents (and, arguably, adoptees) who somehow violate the agencies’ religion or morals:

The state may not discriminate or take any adverse action against a child-placement agency or an organization seeking to become a child-placement agency on the basis, wholly or partly, that the child-placement agency has declined or will decline to provide any service that conflicts with, or provide any service under circumstances that conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of the child-placement agency [2017 SB 149, Section 4, introduced 2017.02.01].

This is “Sharia for Jesus” again. Last year, Republicans tried to grant this right to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual ethics to darn near everybody—individuals, businesses, clubs, but not hospitals!—but after winning the House vote, sponsor Rep. Rev Scott Craig saw the constitutional light and withdrew his bill.

This time, Republicans are testing their ability to sneak bigotry in to law by wrapping a pro-discrimination bill around adorable little babies. (That tack works for unconstitutional abortion restriction, so why not unconstitutional religious discrimination?) The language of SB 149 matches some of the phraseology of last year’s faux religious freedom bill; SB 149 has simply been pared down to applied strictly to child placement agencies.

First Amendment hawks, watch SB 149 carefully. Parents raising children according to their own religious beliefs is just fine. However, does the state really want to find itself in the position of giving tax dollars to a Muslim adoption agency that refuses to place children with anyone other than good Muslim parents?

Let’s keep religious discrimination out of our statutes. Leave religion to parents and churches, and keep discrimination out of our adoption agencies.


  1. Troy 2017-02-03 14:03


    I think this is a good bill. If potential birth mother/families want to work with an agency of their faith (even Muslims) which they know will place their birth child into a home of their faith, they should be allowed to do so. We have laws which give preference to Indian children being placed with Indian families. If we recognize race as an acceptable discriminating factor in adoptions (when we supposedly have a goal to be colorblind), why would we not extend the same factor to religion?

    I don’t know who else besides Children’s Home Society, Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Family Services who do adoptions but all must be licensed by the state with regard to determining acceptable homes. In its 56 years of existence, CFS has placed more than 1,200 children in homes.

    CFS and its adoption program is subsidized by Catholics who support the ministry (reducing costs to both birth families and adoptive families). If a part of CFS’s ministry (after meeting State regulations), CFS desires to exclusively work with families who are Catholic, (unless you assert being raised in a Catholic home is a curse), the child is certainly not being harmed unfairly because the child is being placed in a home that meets requirements, which are appropriately strenuous and expensive.

    And, because of all adopting families meet the requirements under the law (home visits and assessments are extensive and intense), the State has no compelling interest to discourage/prevent such a focus and, in fact, has a reason to encourage it because it reduces costs to both parties to the adoption. Without subsidies, adoption services would only be provided by for-profit entities, the cost would be more, and, in the end, the only families who would get additions to their family would be those who can afford it. I’m not sure that is an outcome you’d want.

    I have no problem if Muslims, Methodists, or atheists want to offer adoptions services and raise money to subsidize it. As an adoptee yourself, you could establish an atheist charity and get an atheist agencies started. While the licensing requirements aren’t easy (would we want it any different), I welcome any other group who wants to match birth mother/families with adoptee families. The more the merrier.

    Shameless Advertising: On Sunday, March 19th, Catholic Family Services is having its major fundraiser at the Performing Arts Center at O’Gorman High School. The entertainment is Mark Schultz who is an award winning evangelical singer who was himself adopted. Tickets are available at HyVee Stores.

  2. Troy 2017-02-03 14:07

    P.S. For emphasis, I want to stress we have laws which discriminate on which families get children based on race.

  3. Kurt Evans 2017-02-03 14:40

    Cory Heidelberger writes:

    You know, I was adopted once.

    You were born just a few months before Roe v. Wade, weren’t you, Cory?

    South Dakota would probably be a much sadder place if Pat Powers were the undisputed lord of its political blogosphere.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-03 14:46

    Considering that adoptions laws are so well regulated already, why would republicans want to expand more regulations to agencies that seem to be working as well as they are?

  5. Troy 2017-02-03 15:07

    Roger, this isn’t more regulations. Its to make it clear that religious based adoption agencies can continue to be in business without being forced to do things contrary to their ministry’s mandate. We need more adoption agencies, not less. In 2013, we had 1,253 children who were in various forms of foster care of which 354 were awaiting adoption.

  6. mike from iowa 2017-02-03 15:46

    Troy-you seem to forget the other side has deeply held religious beliefs about the suitability of allowing over-officious jerks with Rs behind their names to share oxygen with the rest of us. Although I am only speaking for myself, I enjoy, or did at one time, protection from the tyranny of the majority. We are still here. And like Ngwenya, the crocodile, we will always be here.

  7. mike from iowa 2017-02-03 15:48

    One more thing- if you don’t personally or as a group want to date men, why call it a mandate?

  8. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-03 16:24

    If this isn’t some sort of regulation, why does it need to be put into law and why is it required in the first place?

    It sounds like more legislation looking for a problem.

  9. LS2 2017-02-03 16:33

    Long time reader, first time comment-writer!

    If we truly wish to meet the needs of kids in the foster care system we shouldn’t be denying them access to good and loving families. Kids who are removed from their families because of abuse or neglect have the right to be placed with foster families based on what is in their best interest and meets their needs, not the needs of the religious agency making placement. To support this bill is to support the notion that it would be perfectly fine if, for example, a Jewish agency limited placement for vulnerable kids in need despite having several loving Catholic families available immediately.

    Furthermore, this bill doesn’t just allow agencies to discriminate against potential families based on their wide-ranging religious beliefs; it allows them to do so while receiving taxpayer funding and to expressly *continue receiving that funding.* Under the terms of 149, the state can’t do anything to prohibit these agencies from discriminating (and let’s pause here to note that what this bill is probably created to allow – based on prior year’s attempts with similar language and nationwide trends – is agencies to refuse to place kids with loving same sex couples). The state can’t change tax-exempt status, can’t deny licensing/contracts/contract renewals, and can’t fine these agencies.

    Additionally, section 8 of the bill should give the lawyers in the room pause, as it allows these agencies that feel their “rights” have been violated to skip the exhaustion of administrative remedies and hop right into state court to litigate the matter. Then, when these agencies win their suit based on SB 149, they can collect compensatory damages and attorneys fees, funded by South Dakota taxpayers.

    The drafters of this bill want us to believe this is about religious liberty. It isn’t, and we shouldn’t fall for their attempts to dress up discrimination as anything other than it is.

  10. Troy 2017-02-03 17:16


    I have no idea of how any other adoption agency works but Catholic Family Services.

    Because CFS is a ministry of the Catholic Church, it cannot by Canon Law do anything contrary to Church Teaching and MUST “decline to provide any service that conflicts with, or provide any service under circumstances that conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of the child-placement agency.” (language from the law)

    Remember early in the AIDS crisis when it was a death sentence. All across the country nuns formed houses for people to come and get palliative care (we had one in SFalls under the auspices of CFS which thank God is no longer needed and has been repurposed for people with disabilities who can live independently). I can’t remember which state but one that passed an assisted suicide law mandated these houses allow assisted suicide. They reluctantly closed their doors because assisted suicide is grave matter for Catholics and they can’t cooperate directly or indirectly. A law like this would have ensured this wouldn’t have happened.

  11. Mark Winegar 2017-02-03 19:07

    This shameful bill seeks to legitimize religious discrimination. That’s wrong and very likely unconstitutional.

  12. Porter Lansing 2017-02-03 19:48

    A law that codifies that religious people are better than non-religious people? Laws are enacted to ensure that people are treated equally not labeled and graded like livestock.

  13. OldSarg 2017-02-04 11:11

    This law does not legitimize religious discrimination. It simply protects those organizations that have taken it upon themselves to find these children homes from government forced immoral actions. So many of these organizations are being forced by government to place children into homes that actually cause harm to the very children they are trying to protect.

  14. Porter Lansing 2017-02-04 11:22

    Yes it does legitimize religious discrimination. What homes cause harm?

  15. Porter Lansing 2017-02-04 11:52

    PS … an explanation of discrimination, especially for Conservatives with a Capital C.
    ~ Because you’ve never looked at something as discrimination doesn’t mean it’s not discrimination. It just means you’ve never looked at it that way before. It’s probably discrimination and simply unrecognizable to you, at this point. Being closed minded and unable to change is discrimination in itself.

  16. jerry 2017-02-04 14:37

    We would not be discussing religious nonsense had it not been for Bush and company invading Iraq on the biggest lie ever. America needs to grow up and admit they screwed up all those folks by allowing the refugees to come to this country. We totally screwed up theirs, so republicans, take responsibility for your actions. That goes for all who supported the fiasco, yes, that is you Clinton as well. As Powell said, you break it, you own it.

  17. MJL 2017-02-04 21:28

    I think you are missing the other significant portion of this type of law. Adoption agencies could discriminate based on marital status and based on sexual orientation. The argument could be used that we, the adoption agency, don’t believe that single mothers/fathers or “gays” should raise a child. They must be in a home with a mother and father.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-05 07:48

    As MJL notes, the language of SB 149 is far broader than the intent Troy ascribes to adoption agencies and to the bill sponsors. How do we make it easier to place more children in permanent homes by enabling adoption agencies to refuse to work with parents who don’t meet the agencies’ particular religious and moral beliefs? It’s not just about a Christian agency refusing to help Muslim or atheist parents adopt; it’s about, say, a Southern Baptist agency refusing to help Lutherans become parents, or an ELCA agency refusing to help strict Wisconsin Synod couples become parents, or a Catholic agency refusing to help Mathew Wollmann become a dad someday because they heard he had pre-marital sex.

    I accept the notion that certain religious groups may have a mandate from Scripture, from their mission statements, or from their donors to focus on helping fellow believers adopt children. Christians want more babies to be Christian; Muslims want more babies to be Muslim; atheists… well, this atheist doesn’t give much of a darn, as long as you raise your kids to be nice to each other and pay attention to their teachers.

    However, no religious group has a mandate to take public dollars for their work.

    Religious adoption agencies have a choice: they can operate completely privately and place children solely in the homes of fellow believers, or they can accept public dollars and the First Amendment strings that come with acting as an extension of the state.

    The state does not have a choice: it must adhere to the First Amendment. Public dollars cannot be used to promote one religion over another. Public dollars can only be used for the general welfare, without providing advantage to any religion.

  19. jerry 2017-02-05 11:17

    It appears that this discrimination ploy will find religions themselves in an imbroglio when the hands in the taxpayer money jar begin to fight over disbursements. How will it play out when say The Native American Church has equal demands for taxpayer funding as the Evangelical or ECLA or Catholic Social Services has? By all means, proceed. Pass the popcorn.

  20. Troy 2017-02-06 11:04


    Regarding this you said: “Religious adoption agencies have a choice: they can operate completely privately and place children solely in the homes of fellow believers, or they can accept public dollars and the First Amendment strings that come with acting as an extension of the state.”

    Deal. Religioun affiliated or other adoption agencies get no federal or state money. Now you have no reason not to support the bill.

  21. Porter Lansing 2017-02-06 11:18

    Troy Jones … There’s little doubt that your Catholic church has discriminatory tenets against many minorities and women. Those discriminatory tenets are best kept “in house” and can’t be allowed to bleed into the extremely serious question of where orphans are placed. Or do you think Catholic adoption agencies should get first pick of the orphans? Fairness is not the question in your church but it is the question in adoption.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-06 16:08

    Hold on, Troy: then why does this bill refer to the state entering into contracts or providing state benefits or licenses to child placement agencies? If an agency isn’t connected to the state, then this bill seems to have nothing to do with them. If no adoption agencies deal with the state, SB 149 is superfluous. What does SB 149 really do, and for whom?

  23. Troy 2017-02-06 19:42



  24. mike from iowa 2017-02-07 08:42

    South Duck-ota is dead last in the nation with the fewest adults identifying as LGBT’

    North Duck-ota is dead next to last right in front of South Duck-ota.

    New poll out covers 2015-16. Congrats Duck-otas, your Mommie’s would be prowd.

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