House Republican Presents Bill to Protect Faith-Based Foster Care

“Lawmakers are considering a bill to protect religious foster care and adoption agencies in response to recent crackdowns on religious charities by state and local governments,” the Washington Free Beacon reported Thursday.

“Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Penn.) is sponsoring legislation aimed at protecting the religious liberty of charities that provide adoption and foster care services. The bipartisan bill, called the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, would prohibit agencies that receive federal funding from excluding organizations based on their sincerely held beliefs.”

In Kelly’s home state of Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia has gone after religious-based foster care services—both Philadelphia Catholic Social Services along with Bethany Christian Services—over their beliefs that adoptive and foster children should be placed in the homes of heterosexual married couples. The conflict began in March of this year, and just last month a judge ruled in favor of the city, stating that the First Amendment religious liberties of the faith-based organizations were not discriminated against:

“U.S. District Court Judge Petrese B. Tucker found that the city did not violate the religious liberties of Catholic Social Services (CSS) when it suspended its contract with the agency for foster-care services after discovering that the agency would not work with same-sex couples,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

As a result, the situation in which a shortage of homes available to foster children in Philadelphia will only worsen, as the faith-based services are now unable to place children. (According to the Free Beacon report, “Philadelphia issued an urgent plea for more than 300 new foster homes to address its shortage. CSS has said it has more than 30 homes ready to help meet the city’s needs, but are currently empty.)

Hence the desire in Congress at the national level to enact protections for faith-based social service organizations. Kelly’s bill, dubbed the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, was introduced in April of 2017 but has yet to receive a vote in the House.