(Washington, D.C., May 18, 2018)—Earlier this week, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center joined the Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Secular Coalition for America in issuing a statement condemning the recently passed Oklahoma law which permits religiously run adoption agencies to discriminate based on their faith while still receiving taxpayer funding.
“It is wholly incompatible with the United States Constitution, and specifically the First and Fourteenth Amendments, for the government to financially support discriminatory entities,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the AHA. “Regarding the state’s claim of religious freedom, religious liberty does not require the government to subsidize invidious discrimination in adoption or in any other realm.”
The statement follows here.
On behalf of the secular community, and all Americans who value true religious freedom and equality, our organizations wholeheartedly condemn the new Oklahoma law as well as the similar laws that have passed or have been proposed in states across the nation, including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia.
Under these laws, publically funded adoption providers may discriminate in their placement of children without risking their financing. They may, for religious reasons, refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples, with atheists, with unmarried couples, or with those in minority religious groups. Members of those groups will be compelled to pay taxes to financially support adoption providers which discriminate against them in the placement of children. At its core, this law means that vulnerable children will be deprived of loving homes due to the religious beliefs of placement agencies.
Governor Fallin’s claims that this law is necessary to protect the religious freedom of adoption agencies in her state, and that religious adoption agencies could be forced to close down to avoid violating their religious beliefs, are nothing more than scaremongering. Agencies in other states who choose to discriminate in this way have not been compelled to close—they are simply no longer eligible for public funding. Religious freedom does not provide a right to demand government funding if an organization is not willing to serve the community as a whole.
It is particularly galling that such a law was passed during National Foster Care Month. Adoption laws and policies should hold the interests of children paramount. When taxpayer funds are used to assist in the placement of children, those funds should be spent ensuring that children are placed in loving, safe, nurturing environments as soon as possible. The ability to love and care for a child is not limited to people of one particular faith. It is not an ability held solely by married couples over unmarried couples who chose to live together, nor is it reserved for heterosexual couples to the exclusion of LGBTQ people.
As secular organizations committed to equality under the law for all, and to the separation of religion from government, we believe that taxpayer funding should be reserved for those adoption agencies that put the interests of children first, not those who seek to impose their own religious dogma and use it as a license to discriminate. We oppose these laws wholeheartedly and are working with all available allies to challenge them both in the courts and through the legislative process.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
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