Religious Protections for Adoptive, Foster Care Parents Passes Arizona Legislature

Religious Protections for Adoptive, Foster Care Parents Passes Arizona Legislature

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.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Religious Protections For Foster, Adoptive Parents and Providers Passes Senate

Religious Protections For Foster, Adoptive Parents and Providers Passes Senate

By Corinne Murdock |

In a quicker turnaround than anticipated, a bill to prohibit the state from discriminating against the religious or personal beliefs of potential adoptive or foster parents or individuals who advertise, provide, or facilitate adoption or foster services, SB1399, passed the Senate 16-11 along party lines on Wednesday. The bill now advances to the House for consideration. The vote on SB1399 occurred quickly; the Senate announced Monday that it would do the third reading of the bill sometime the following week.

Only two Democrats spoke out on the floor in opposition to the bill during final voting. They claimed that the bill would not only fix a nonexistent problem, but would create a slew of problems down the road.

State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) argued there wasn’t a need for the bill because no state agencies discriminate against individuals hoping to adopt or foster based on their religious beliefs. Stahl Hamilton added that the Department of Child Services (DCS) already has a system in place considering religious preferences when matching families with foster children. On another note, Stahl Hamilton said that this legislation allowed the government to meddle with religious beliefs. 

Likewise, State Senator Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita) emphasized that while the freedom of religion is important and already protected by the U.S. Constitution, this bill would go against what it aimed to achieve. She claimed it would deny children homes based on someone’s political and religious views.

During the Committee of the Whole (COW) reading of the bill on Monday, State Senator Raquel Terán (D-Phoenix) called the legislation “alarming” and a form of discrimination.

Secular and LGBTQ activists opposed the bill because it would enable Christian agencies to turn away non-Christian and LGBTQ foster or adoptive applicants.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Arizona Policy Director Darrell Hill claimed that the bill would enable antisemitism.

Acts of religious discrimination were classified as altering the tax treatment of a person, including assessing penalties and refusing tax exemptions; disallowing or denying a tax deduction for charitable donations; withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating, or materially altering the terms or conditions of a state grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, guarantee, loan, scholarship or other similar benefit from or to a person; withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating or adversely altering the terms or conditions of or denying any entitlement or benefit under a state benefit program from or to a person; imposing, levying or assessing a monetary fine, fee, penalty, damages or an injunction; withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating, materially altering the terms or conditions of or denying license, certification, accreditation, custody award or agreement, diploma, grade, recognition or other similar benefit, position or status from or to a person; and refusing to hire or promote, forcing 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.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.