Georgia State Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) has filed a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples. According the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the intent of the bill is to “preserve choice” for birth mothers who want to ensure their child grows up in a particular religious background. 

The AJC further reported that the bill would allow agencies to refuse to work with couples that violate “certain religious or moral convictions” the agency holds. Harbin stated that the legislation could even apply to atheists. Makes one wonder if Harbin is more interested in propagating his Christian faith than ensuring that every child finds a home with loving and caring parents who would put the interests of the child first. 

For reasons that don’t resonate with me, a growing number of Christians around the country seem to think that they and their faith are under attack in America. I’m not sure where this attack is coming from considering the U.S. Congress is overwhelmingly composed of Christians as is every state legislature. Same for federal and state judges. 

All faiths in the United States receive tax benefits that no other charitable organization gets. Some examples include exemptions from property taxes on church property, special parsonage tax breaks for clergy, and the special benefit of not having to complete the annual onerous IRS Form 990 that all other charitable organizations are required to file. 

Several years ago Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) tried to change the law granting the 990 exemption because of the high life styles some prominent clergy were enjoying at parishioner expense. The pushback was overwhelming and hasn’t been tried since. That would suggest that Christians are not without political clout in this country. 

In South Carolina, Aimee Maddona, a Catholic mother of three, grew up in a home that provided shelter for foster care children. She wanted to do the same and applied to Miracle Hill Ministries, a government funded foster care agency. Her application was rejected because Miracle Hill would only work with evangelical Protestants. The Department of Health and Human Services upheld Miracle Hill’s right to discriminate based on a religious freedom argument. The case is now in federal court. 

Republicans often decry tax dollars going to pay for social welfare programs such as food stamps, housing subsidies, Obamacare subsidies, Medicaid, and other programs intended to help the less fortunate and needy. These are policy disputes that are subject to honest debate. Other welfare programs, but called by more euphemistic titles, such as farm subsidies, bank loan guarantees, flood insurance, and tax breaks for special interests are defended with all sorts of sophistic arguments. Power at work and working quite successfully. 

I have to ask those who defend taxpayer supported adoption/foster care agencies that discriminate, why taxpayers should be forced to have some of their money used to support discriminatory activity that may go against THEIR beliefs? If Senator Harbin and Miracle Hill believe so strongly that their faith should be a determinative factor in placing an adoptive or foster care child, then they should be willing to fund it without any government assistance. Isn’t that what true conservatives claim to believe---that the private sector can always do it better---which seemingly would include raising private sector money? 

Religious freedom today has become an acceptable term in many quarters when used to discriminate against the LGBTQ population. But why shouldn’t a person of faith also be allowed to discriminate against a divorced person? After all, Jesus commanded against divorce except in two instances that often don’t apply. How about a woman giving birth out of wedlock? That could violate someone’s faith based belief? Segregation was legal, acceptable, and Bible based among many Christians for centuries. Should civil rights legislation be overturned to accommodate those whose religious beliefs continue to support the separation of the races? 

There is no telling how much harm these religious freedom bills could ultimately do to not only our commerce and economy, but in setting neighbor against neighbor, community against community, and so on. We are the UNITED States of America. Individuals should always have the right to discriminate based on whatever their beliefs or belief system, provided that the taxpayer is not required to subsidize or support it and they are not otherwise in violation of various laws and regulations. Examples would include houses of worship and private clubs and organizations. 

But any business that is engaged in interstate commerce, or any person choosing to engage in a profession requiring a license agrees to abide by the Constitution and all federal and state laws. There should be no exemptions from the application of neutral laws and regulations applicable to the general population unless the government can demonstrate a compelling state interest. Any other interpretation would allow individuals or organizations to become laws unto themselves leading to anarchy. 

America is divided enough. Senator Harbin’s bill, and others not unlike it, should be assigned to the circular file and appropriately discarded.

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