Here is some more key information and spot on comments about the conscience protection issue, the situation in Virginia, its its critical nature, and the bill that was signed into law yesterday by Governor Bob McDonnell.
The legislation stemmed from a regulatory attempt last year by the homosexual lobby to shut down faith-based adoption and child placement agencies if they did not place children in households of those who practice lifestyle contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs. A key point that homosexual activists seem to ignore is that some, if not all, of these agencies refuse to place children with unmarried heterosexual couples as well.
However, these groups, using a procedure allowed under state law, forced the State Board of Social Services to weigh regulations that would have forced faith-based agencies to disregard factors such as “sexual orientation’” and “family status” when making child placements — regardless of those agencies’ beliefs about marriage and family. Although it rejected the objectionable provisions and adopted rules that affirmed the agencies’ freedom of conscience, The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference and other allied organizations considered clear statutory protections essential to avoid the whims of regulatory boards whose personnel can and do change from governor to governor.
Private, religious-based adoption agencies are a major asset to our communities as they work diligently to find loving, caring, stable homes for children in need of care. This legislation will help ensure that these adoption agencies remain active in finding homes for these children, without being mandated by government to violate the tenets of their deeply held religious beliefs in the process. This is a bill that reaffirms religious liberty and freedom, a hallmark of this great nation.
I was delighted to be able to play a part in protecting religious liberties in Virginia and helping to ensure that we respect the moral convictions of birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoption agencies with which they work.
The most important result of this legislation is the assurance it provides to faith-based child placement agencies that they will not be forced to choose between closing their doors or making placements that violate their beliefs. It is unsettling that we have to resort to state level legislation to ensure religious liberties that are supposed to be protected under the Constitution. However, I am glad to have played a role in maintaining our network of adoption agencies here in Virginia.
. . . called passage of the measure “a tremendous victory for our first freedom, religious liberty” and expressed gratitude “to all who supported this effort and helped bring it to a successful conclusion, especially The Family Foundation of Virginia, which partnered closely with the Conference throughout the process.”
Neil P. McNulty, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia:
Prospective parents who come to faith-based child placement agencies such as Catholic Charities do so at their own choosing, and most do so because they share the beliefs and values espoused by organizations such as ours. To force faith-based adoption agencies to violate their core beliefs is not only questionable in the constitutional area, but also hurts the public good by removing the freedom for such couples to select only those organizations which share their beliefs. This legislation protects those families and agencies.
Joanne D. Nattrass, executive director of Commonwealth Catholic Charities:
As a licensed child-placing agency, Commonwealth Catholic Charities has been providing foster care and adoption services in the Commonwealth of Virginia for many, many years, positively impacting the permanency, safety, and well-being of children in our communities. The law allows all agencies, including faith-based agencies such as ours, the opportunity to continue to support the initiatives of the Commonwealth — as well as the Church’s own interest — in building and strengthening families through adoption and foster care.
Faith-based agencies are a major provider of child-placement services in Virginia, helping hundreds of children and families every year. Last year, for example, Virginia’s three Catholic Charities agencies alone placed 137 children in adoptive homes and provided 307 foster care placements for children. The action of the General Assembly, like that of the Board of Social Services last year, is a resounding affirmation of the outstanding work these child-placing agencies do.