Forty Senate Democrats wrote a letter opposing the Childhood Welfare Provider Inclusion Act to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) who is the Vice Chairman of the committee.

State and local sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws are placing Christian adoption and foster care agencies at risk because they don’t want to place children with same-sex couples.

While same-sex couples are the primary focus of conversation surrounding this bill because of SOGI laws; there are other circumstances in which a faith-based agency may not want to place a child because of their religious convictions.  For instance, a faith-based agency may not want to place a child with an interfaith couple, in a single-parent household, in a home where there is marital strife, with an unmarried couple, or with a couple where one prospective parent is divorced.

The Childhood Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881/S. 881) prohibits the federal government, and any state or local government that receives federal funding for any program that provides child welfare services under part B (Child and Family Services) or part E (Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) of title IV of the Social Security Act (SSAct), from discriminating or taking an adverse action against a child welfare service provider that declines to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.

(Related: Catch our podcast interview with Anna Anderson about the bill.)

The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month as an amendment to the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill by a 29 to 23 vote.

The Democrats who signed the letter wrote, “Such an exemption would elevate the religious beliefs of taxpayer-funded foster care providers over the best interests of children and would be a serious threat to the safety and protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in foster care in particular.”

The First Amendment, however, elevates those concerns, a fact lost on the letter’s signatories. SOGI laws have led to the closure of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies which is not in children’s best interest.

Also, there is not a single case of a faith-based foster care agency refusing to place youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer so that argument is a canard.

They continue, “It is never acceptable to use federal funds to discriminate based on religion, family structure, or marital status.”

Where in federal law is there protection for family structure and marital status? Also, they seem to be just fine with anti-religious discrimination when it favors LGBTQ couples.

“Allowing child welfare agencies to close the door to willing and fully qualified foster and adoptive parents due to a difference in religious belief opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination and deprives vulnerable children of safe and loving homes,” the letter reads.

They are fully qualified by what standard? Also, who determines whether that home is “safe and loving”?

Are children not deprived when faith-based agencies close as a result of anti-religious discriminatory SOGI laws? Also, there is NO mention that there are numerous secular agencies who do not object to placing children with these couples and this bill does not prevent that from happening.

Terry Schilling, executive director of American Principles Project, said these Senate Democrats just declared war on faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.

“They made it clear that they would rather see children suffer than allow these faith-based providers to continue to exist and serve their communities. These 40 Democrats want to shut it all down — damn the kids, damn the consequences,” Schilling said.

Of the nine Democrats who did not sign the letter – U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Doug Jones (D-Alabama), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) – six face a difficult re-election campaign being from states that voted for President Donald Trump.

Schilling said the remaining Democrats must choose. ” Do you stand with Catholic Charities? Do you oppose anti-religious bigotry? Or will you simply stand by as people of faith are forced from the public square for holding beliefs that violate progressive orthodoxy? Your constituents deserve an answer,” he asked.

Schilling notes this bill could become an issue in November for Senate Democrats facing a difficult re-election. “Is Joe Manchin really going to tell West Virginians we need to shut down all these Christian providers? Is he really going to ignore the opioid crisis and displace thousands of children just to make a few LGBT lobbyists in Washington happy? This is an important issue. We need to know exactly where he stands,” Schilling concluded.

A Heritage Foundation poll in April found that a majority of Americans believe that we must ensure all adoption agencies can continue to serve children (58 percent) rather than forcing them to place children with gay or lesbian parents (42 percent). Nine in 10 agree the best way to help children in need is to maintain the diversity and number of agencies serving them.

Read the Senate Democrats letter below:

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