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ACLU’s Skarin Fights SB 149’s Religious Discrimination; Jensen, Tapio Compare Gay Adopting Parents to Criminals

Senator Phil Jensen’s crackerbarrel-roiling likening of LGBT South Dakotans to pedophiles extended the offensive diversionary tactics he and other Republicans took in pushing Senate Bill 149, the discrimination-in-adoption bill, in Senate Health and Human Services last Wednesday.

Libby Skarin, ACLU-SD
Libby Skarin, ACLU-SD

After hearing numerous supporters doggedly avoid stating the real anti-LGBT intent of SB 149, Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, intelligently explained how SB 149 uses “broad and sweeping language” to “allow religion to be used to discriminate against loving, qualified parents who wish to open their homes to kids without them” (start listening at 79:20 of the SDPB audio). She said SB 149 would allow any child placement agency (not just faith-based or entirely private agencies—read the definition!) to turn away prospective parents based on “explicitly religious criteria” excluding “not only same-sex couples, but also people who have a different religion [from] the agency, single parents, interfaith couples… families that don’t attend church weekly, servicemembers or gun owners… based on the agency’s moral conviction regarding pacifism, all while children in need of homes languish in foster care and await permanent families. This bill even authorizes agencies to deny a child placement with a close relative and instead place that child with strangers if that relative is of the wrong religion….”

As the smartest, clearest speaker in the room Wednesday, Libby Skarin also pronounced her name clearly at the beginning of her testimony: the last name is /skreen/.

Senators Neal Tapio and Phil Jensen
Senators Neal Tapio and Phil Jensen

Demonstrating at the very least that they weren’t listening closely to testimony, Senator Neal Tapio and Senator Phil Jensen both mispronounced Skarin’s name (Tapio: /SKAR-kin/; Jensen: /ka-RIN, KA-rin/).

Senator Tapio asked Skarin (104:08) if an adoption agency can discriminate against prospective parents with a religious belief in female genital mutilation. Senator Jensen asked Skarin if a known pedophile should be allowed to adopt a child. Skarin said neither such placement would be in the best interest of the child. Senator Jensen said such denial is a “judgment call.” Yet both Senators miss a crucial point: the behaviors they describe are felonies under state law (female genital mutilation: SDCL 28-18-37; pedophilia, Chapter 22-22). Tapio and Jensen are equating felony behavior with behaviors the state cannot punish, like not going to a certain church or any church or not being married to a person of the opposite sex.

In other words, Tapio and Jensen are saying that if you don’t fly right with their church, you might as well be a criminal.

SB 149 passed committee 5–2 (thank you, Chair Deb Soholt, for joining Senator Kevin Killer in voting nay). On the floor Thursday, Senator Billie Sutton invoked Rule 5-17, delaying consideration of SB 149 until this Wednesday, February 22, which gives decent folks plenty of time to e-mail Tapio and Jensen to misspell their names, then contact other, more sensible legislators and get them to vote no on this attempt to wedge Sharia for Jesus into our adoption laws.


  1. Francis Schaffer 2017-02-20 13:06

    I find this bill to be a bit reckless in light of the list of religious denominations in the United States numbering over 300.

    Some of which are Satanic in nature. I could not find one which promotes pedophilia(all those queries in Google lead back to the Catholic Church), yet I am sure someone would claim to be a “Child Placement Agency” with beliefs that sex between children and adults is just fine and this is a precept of their religion. This bill needs to be killed immediately before another lawsuit dips into funds which we are apparently going to run short of this fiscal year.

    On a side note, I weary of Christians applying Old Testament thinking. Jesus gave us only 2 commandments; ‘Love god with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul and love your neighbor as yourself’.(paraphrasing) I am tired of Christians making religion more complicated than this. I hope to hear others view of this bill. In my opinion, this is a waste of time and taxpayer money.

    I almost want to say, ‘Work on real problems you a——s’ yet I refrain from doing so – or maybe not.

  2. Jenny 2017-02-20 13:22

    We need to get this fake Christian scum out of Pierre. Such ignorance and stupidity about the gay community.
    Should we allow draft dodgers like Phil Jensen to adopt, or last names that end in ‘O’ adopt? That last name is not South Dakota sounding enough.

  3. John 2017-02-20 13:42

    Senators Tapio and Jensen, and their apologists are merely pro-birth, not pro-life.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-20 17:27

    Among Francis’s good points, I like his suggestion that our budget crunch ought to inspire a fiscal restraint that would kill any bill that even faintly smells of a potential constitutional challenge.

    If I adopt that line, I might have to accept the repeal of IM22 as a matter of fiscal expediency… but we could also immediately dispose of SB 149. Any others leap to mind that threaten to provoke a constitutional challenge?

  5. Francis Schaffer 2017-02-20 17:33

    I had attempted to comment on this, but there must be a timer and I could preview my comment yet not post it. It could have been the offensive language not really sure if Cory prohibits this on his blog. What I wanted to say was, ‘I did some research on religious denominations in the United States’. The link will take you to the over 310 recognized religious denominations.

    There is a section of about 8 denominations which are Satanic in nature. I used Google Search to find churches based upon pedophilia but all those searches returned were articles on the Catholic Church. I imagine in the United States there are or will be soon “Child-placement agencies” which have a claim of sex between children and adults is a precept of its’ members’ sincere religious belief or moral conviction. This is another example of unintended consequences by our legislature which will need to be litigated using resources we apparently don’t have. This bill needs to be killed swiftly and certainly.

    One more point I have been pondering for several weeks; Jesus came and gave all his followers these 2 commandments;
    1. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength;
    2. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

    If this is the simple message Jesus brought to us, why has organized religion made it so much more complicated? Money? Control? One thing I would tell our legislature is; ‘Work on something that matters’.
    I will get by Cory’s filter this time.?

  6. Francis Schaffer 2017-02-20 17:35

    Looks like Cory removed my offensive portion of my post prior to me re posting. I say leave them both for all to read.

  7. LS2 2017-02-20 17:44

    If you’re looking for other bills that will likely provoke a legal challenge, I’d direct you to SB 176 (former vehicle bill that has been adopted into what appears to be an anti-protest bill) as well as HB 1189.

    HB 1189 bans an incredibly safe method of abortion (D&E) that was at issue in two SCOTUS cases in the 2000s. In Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), NE tried to ban the two safest methods of 2d trimester abortion (D&X and D&E). In that case, SCOTUS said banning both procedures would be an “undue burden on a woman’s right to make an abortion decision.” This was later affirmed in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), which unfortunately upheld the banning of D&X procedures, but did so finding that the ban was not an undue burden specifically because the D&E procedure – which is the procedure at issue in HB 1189 – was still available. South Dakota law bans D&X procedures, and therefore passing HB 1189 would put our state in the exact position that brought NE to the Supreme Court back in 2000.

    There are four states that are currently in active litigation regarding such D&E bans – Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Louisiana. All four laws have been blocked as litigation proceeds.

    The legal case against HB 1189 is solid and should SD pass the bill into law a legal challenge is practically certain.

  8. grudznick 2017-02-20 17:46

    Mr/Ms Schaffer, I am unsure how to assist you but I have noted that fellows of my skills with these newfangled computers and such sometimes create mistakes. Mr. H is a sharp and computer genius and is able to control much of the internet but sometimes I myself have these same difficulties. I think sometimes it is my computer because I get the message that “resources are broken” or that the whole internet is full or something when I try to just read Mr. H’s bloggings. I think it is in the process of being fixed. I would encourage you to stick with us.

  9. grudznick 2017-02-20 17:51

    Ms. Skarin does look very young but also very much smarter than Mr. Jensen. Mr. Jensen is not very smart at all, and Ms. Skarin is probably very very smart.

  10. Francis Schaffer 2017-02-20 18:25

    I am a man. I did have a direct email exchange with Cory and as I hoped he has a filter that tags posts with offensive language. He had edited my filtered post and posted prior to my second attempt to defeat his filter of offensive language. My whole point is SB 149 needs to be eliminated and not be revisited.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-20 20:16

    Thank you, Francis, for trying to keep us on topic. SB 149 is bad policy. Tapio and Jensen treated Skarin and logic poorly.

  12. grudznick 2017-02-20 20:33

    Thank you, Mr. Schaffer. I appreciate your clarification and your point of view. Have a good evening, sir, and please return with more of your insights. I, for one, appreciate them.

  13. grudznick 2017-02-20 20:37

    And Mr. H is righter than right…Mr. Jensen is so far off base he’s over the fence in right field. What needs to happen is a nice moderate reasonable sort of democrat here in Rapid City needs to actually get a few dozen people to show up and vote that assclown out of his office.

    Did you know he’s a carpet bagger? I don’t cotton much to carpet baggers.

  14. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-02-20 23:03

    Isn’t this the same Senator Tapio, who at a recent legislative coffee, claimed he wanted to get rid of Medicaid? Anyone who is not a friend of Medicaid does not have the best interest of our children in mind, I might add…..

  15. Mark Winegar 2017-02-21 07:05

    Whatever happened to freedom of religion?

  16. Jenny 2017-02-21 08:16

    It really makes me wonder if men like Phil Jensen and Neal Tapio are closet gays. You’d be surprised how many far right men are secretly gay but because of the way they were brought up to be anti-gay are afraid to come out of the closet. My gay friends have told their stories of being so afraid to come out to their families. It’s really sad how much the LGBT community has been ostracized.
    Having an obsession with the gay community sometimes means something else is going on in the minds of men like Jensen and Tapio.

  17. mike from iowa 2017-02-21 08:19

    Tapio and Jensen treated Skarin and logic poorly.

    And this surprises no one. They are wingnuts, she is a woman. She scares them, they double team her.

  18. Porter Lansing 2017-02-21 09:55

    Of course, Jenny. And … they think we don’t know it. Hey Phil and Neal. Time to join the list, boys.

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