What About the Children?

By Denzel McCampbell

Governor Rick Snyder made significant news a few weeks ago when he said that he would veto the Religious Freedom Restoration Act bill currently making its way through the Michigan Legislature. This was welcoming news from a Governor who rarely takes a stand on hot-button issues before they hit his desk. Yet, this is not the only striking comment from the Governor involving bills dealing with “religious freedom.”

Currently, there are religious freedom bills in the legislature that apply to businesses, medical treatment, and adoption services. While the Governor has spoken out against the two former, he has left the door open for the latter, eluding to the adoption bills needing more review. Yet, as of the writing of this blog, the adoption bills have advanced furthest in the legislature, having already passed in the House.

What should get more review is how these policies will affect one of the most vulnerable populations in the state: the 13,000 children in the foster care system.

The proposed legislation would prevent the government from cutting, funding, or taking action against private adoption agencies that refuse to provide services based on their closely held religious beliefs.

Lately, the focus has been on the potential of these bills to codify discrimination against LBGT people who are thinking about adopting children. But, what is not getting nearly enough attention is the potential to discriminate against other groups of people based on “closely held religious beliefs.”

Agencies may have closely held religious beliefs that do not allow unwed couples to become parents. They could have beliefs that people of another faith cannot be parents or beliefs that say people of a certain ethnic or racial background are unfit to provide a welcoming home. Surely, a wedding, a certain religion, or race does not determine if someone is fit to adopt a child. Why are we considering legislation that says otherwise? Are we truly ok with allowing discrimination to be put into law and denying vulnerable children a loving and safe family?

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), “the goal is to place children into adoptive homes as quickly as possible…Together with private agencies, DHS staff searches for adoptive families that will best meet the needs of the child.” Allowing those private agencies to deny adoption to suitable perspective parents because of factors that have nothing to do with parenting skills and meeting the needs of the child would run counter to achieving that goal.

We should not give credence to policies that will put these children at a further disadvantage. We should support policies that welcome people from all walks of life who want to engage in the loving bond that a child and parent share. It’s time for our elected officials to recognize and embrace ALL families in Michigan.