By Corinne Murdock |
A bill prohibiting the state from discriminating against those with religious beliefs engaging or working within the adoption and foster care systems passed the State House on Thursday. The legislation now heads to Governor Doug Ducey’s desk.
SB1399 offers protections for potential adoptive or foster parents, as well as individuals who advertise, provide, or facilitate adoption or foster care services. The House passed the bill along party lines, just as the Senate did at the beginning of March.
Senate Democrats in opposition to the bill claimed it fixed a nonexistent problem. They warned that the legislation would only serve to create problems, such as the government meddling with religious beliefs.
That stance echoed the arguments presented by progressive organizations such as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit that pushes for total eradication of any vestiges of religion from government. The nonprofit has intervened in a number of famous cases, such as that of the Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. A little over a decade ago, the nonprofit intervened in a case challenging whether taxpayers should be allowed to direct part of their tax payments to religious organizations supporting religious school students: Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn.
The Arizona chapter of the American Defense League (ADL) also opposed the bill.
Under the bill, the only potential situation for the government to discriminate against an individual’s religious beliefs when determining placement of a child would be when determining whether the individual shares the same religious beliefs as the child. Otherwise, the legislation prohibits the government from discriminating against individuals offering adoption or foster care services or attempting to adopt or foster a child on the basis of their religion.
The legislation defines “discriminatory action” as altering an individual’s tax treatment, such as assessing penalties and refusing tax exemptions; disallowing or denying tax deductions for charitable donations; withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating, or materially altering the terms or conditions of benefits such as a state grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, guarantee, loan, or scholarship; withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating, or adversely altering the terms or conditions of or denying any entitlement or benefit under a state benefit program, or a license, certification, accreditation, custody award or agreement, diploma, grade, recognition, or other similar benefit, position, or status; imposing, levying, or assessing a monetary fine, fee, penalty, damages, or an injunction; and refusing to hire or promote, force to resign, fire, demote, sanction, discipline, adversely alter the terms or conditions of employment, retaliate or take other adverse employment action against a person employed or commissioned by the state government.