Opinion: Christian foster parents shouldn’t be met with hostility by the state

Religious discrimination is hurting children waiting for homes in foster care.

Just after Easter, Colorado state senators passed a bill that will unconstitutionally discriminate against some current and prospective Christian foster families.

The legislation declares that minors in foster care, beginning at 5 years old, will be instructed annually that they’re entitled to “affirmative gender care” in the state’s foster system and from their foster family. Even more dangerous, it requires foster families to affirm a minor’s gender confusion no matter how deeply this requirement violates religious convictions.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law last week.

Colorado is not alone in its hostility to Christian families eager to serve in the foster care space. In fact, 28 other states have enacted similar provisions.

Ironically, these bills are called “Child Welfare Nondiscrimination Laws” – a politically correct term that disguises the damage they threaten and ultimately impart. They’re neither in the best interest of a child’s wellbeing nor non-discriminatory.

These measures force foster families to use a minor’s preferred pronoun, affirm a child’s gender identity and expression, take a youth to “gender-affirming” activities, and potentially even require a foster family to sign a child up for medical interventions like puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

Focus on the Family — a nonprofit Christian family help organization with extensive resources to assist in parenting, marriage and counseling — cares deeply about children in foster care and foster families. As a matter of fact, as a child who spent time in foster care myself, I know how important it is for children to benefit from the love of a family.

It was this personal sensitivity and longing that led our organization to found and launch our “Wait No More” program – a ministry that specifically aims to raise awareness and recruit parents to welcome children in the U.S. foster care system into their homes. We have helped to place thousands of such children in forever homes.

These draconian laws discriminating against Christian parents are discouraging many from participating in the system. Some are dropping out. They’re objecting to the fact that states are basically claiming legal jurisdiction of private homes, making them unlivable for Christians.

For example, if a boy in the foster care system believes he’s a girl or “nonbinary,” a family entrusted with his care would not be allowed to guide or direct him based on their strong religious convictions. In fact, they would be required to affirm what some Christians believe to be sexual confusion.

Yet, Christians have a unique calling in Scripture to care for the weak and vulnerable. We know that except for a child in the womb, no one is more vulnerable than a child without a family.

Laws and regulations like this measure in Colorado are being challenged in courts across the country — from Massachusetts to Washington and Oregon.

The state of Oregon is currently being sued for religious discrimination because their regulations for foster care and adoption have excluded a Christian family who has deeply held religious beliefs on human sexuality that would not permit them to affirm a minor in their gender confusion.

The Bates family told state officials that they would happily care for and accept any child, but they could not subscribe to beliefs and actions that go against their Christian beliefs. As a result, the state denied the application to adopt foster siblings.

Oregon state officials believe that a Christian family is unfit to adopt or even  participate in the foster system because they will not agree to use preferred  pronouns or assist a child in a “gender transition.”

In this case, Alliance Defending Freedom is asserting three constitutional violations:

First, Oregon’s policy violates First Amendment rights to free speech, assembly and free association by requiring the family to speak words that violate their faith beliefs, associate with messages that violate their faith beliefs and regulate their speech in content and viewpoint in order to adopt foster children.

Second, the policy violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of the family’s religion because the policy is not neutral or generally applicable. It categorically excludes people of faith from participation and serves as a religious litmus test.

Third, the policy violates the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law because the family is being treated worse than other similarly situated people because of their religion.

The Vatican recently released a document titled “Dignitas Infinita” (Infinite Dignity) in which it stated human sexuality is “a gift to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good.” They went on to warn that current social experimentations “amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel.”

In fact, our government is leveraging the foster care system to push a radical ideology that trumps the belief system of countless people who would otherwise be ready to serve.

Christian families are eager to serve children and be part of the solution “at the service of the good.” But sadly, in this current climate, some of the very people best and most excited to step up and help are being told to shut up and sit down.

Jim Daly is the president of Focus on the Family.

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