Okla., Kan. adoption bills guard religious liberty

by David Roach, posted Tuesday, May 15, 2018 (9 days ago)

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- Legislation passed in Oklahoma and Kansas to protect the religious liberty of adoption agencies has drawn praise from Baptist leaders in those states and criticism from homosexual activist groups.

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In Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1140 on May 11. The measure protects private organizations from being required to take part in the placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the action would violate their "written religious or moral convictions or policies." The law permits faith-based adoption agencies to abide by their religious convictions in refusing to place children with same-sex couples.

Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Executive Director Hance Dilbeck supported the bill along with former BGCO Executive Director Anthony Jordan.

"We are grateful to Gov. Fallin and the Oklahoma legislative members who approved Senate Bill 1140, the adoption protection measure," Dilbeck said in a statement. "This much-needed bill not only protects and advances religious liberty, it ensures the strength and future of the faith-based adoption and foster care agencies who serve so many children and families in Oklahoma."

Greg McNeece, president of the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, told Baptist Press SB 1140 doesn't affect OBHC because the ministry does not contract with the state to place adoptive or foster children. But he applauded the legislation, stating "it prevents a faith-based organization from being forced to basically do away with their God-given call and their God-given mission" to uphold Scripture's standards for the family.

Fallin said in a statement that the bill "allows faith-based agencies that contract with Oklahoma to continue to operate in accordance with their beliefs.... Other states that have declined the protection to faith-based agencies have seen these agencies close their doors, leaving less options for successful placement of children who need loving parents."

In conjunction with signing the bill, Fallin also underscored her commitment "to preserving the rights of all Oklahomans who are eligible and want to be considered for parenting." She directed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to publish a list of organizations willing to serve all individuals who meet the state's requirements for being foster or adoptive parents.

Opposing the new law, Oklahomans for Equality said the measure uses taxpayer dollars to discriminate against homosexuals and is among "pervasive and persistent mean-spirited legislative efforts" in the Sooner State, the Tulsa World reported.

In Kansas, a similar bill was approved by legislators May 4 and awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer, who has indicated he will sign it.

Senate Bill 284 bars the Kansas Department for Children and Families from refusing to contract with foster or adoption agencies whose religious beliefs prevent them from placing children with same-sex couples.

Bob Mills, executive director of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, told BP "Kansas-Nebraska Baptists are absolutely affirming of families. Anything we can do to strengthen the traditional family, we want to do that. I think this bill will move us toward strengthening the traditional family."

Among opponents of SB 284, a spokesperson for the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign told The Wichita Eagle numerous groups and individuals "have all spoken out against this bill because they understand that needless, discriminatory bills only serve to harm Kansans and the reputation of the Sunflower State."

According to The New York Times, eight states have enacted laws protecting the religious liberty of adoption agencies. Kansas would be the ninth.

With reporting by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. David Roach is chief national correspondent for BP, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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