Religious Refusal Law Targeting Adoption, Foster Care and Child Welfare

On Wednesday (April 15), the House State Affairs committee heard HB 3864 by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, a cynical religious-refusal law that targets child welfare programs. The bill would authorize all child welfare organizations — including those that receive taxpayer funding under state contracts — to refuse to place a child with a qualified family just because that family doesn’t meet the organization's religious or moral criteria.

The primary consideration for a child welfare agency or organization should always be the best interests of the child — not advancing a sectarian belief or political agenda. This bill gets that backward.

  • The bill is clearly intended to discriminate against LGBT children and families. As written the law would allow child welfare agencies (including adoption and foster care) that receive tax-payer dollars to pick and choose which families they will and will not work with.
  • The broad language of this bill would allow private agencies to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples, as well as people of different faiths than the agencies. All of these could potentially be turned away from providing homes to children – even if they are relatives of the child.
  • Current laws and regulations in Texas already balance the convictions of religiously affiliated child welfare service providers with the needs and beliefs of children they serve. There is no history of problems this bill would remedy.


Texas has a tragic history of partnering with child welfare organizations that use religious doctrine to mask child abuse and proselytizing. The Roloff Homes, a faith-based home for troubled teens run by fundamentalist preacher Lester Roloff, had a string of abuse and physical neglect allegations that ultimately forced them to close their facilities in Texas. This bill could create a loophole to allow bad-actors to return to Texas’ child welfare system.

And more fundamentally — this bill could deprive many children of the family that is best suited to their needs. Putting religious dogma ahead of the best interests of the child is a perversion of religious liberty.

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  • published this page in The Latest 2015-04-22 11:40:03 -0500