It's an issue that's getting a lot of attention in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
We have submitted public comments opposing a regulation proposed by the Virginia Department of Social Services that would force faith-based adoption placement agencies to either violate the tenets of their faith or forfeit their licenses.
The proposed regulation, 22 VAC 40-131-170(B), would prohibit Virginia adoption agencies from making decisions regarding prospective parents on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or family status. Our comments explain that this proposal would jeopardize the best interests of children in pursuit of a political agenda by forcing religiously affiliated adoption agencies to close their doors or compromise their standards and principles. The regulation is entirely unnecessary, as married couples or individuals desiring to adopt a child have ample opportunity to do so without any need to trample upon the religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies.
We provided several legal and public policy arguments against the proposal, noting that the current system allows birth mothers to ensure that the future foster or adoptive parents of her child, and the organization seeking those parents, will share her religious faith and moral values. We noted the strong protection that the Constitution of Virginia and state statutes provide for religious freedom, in contrast to the proposed regulation.
In our letter submitted to the Va Department of Social Services, we contend that "the proposed regulation would have a devastating impact upon faith-based adoption agencies that operate in accordance with the principles of a particular religion or denomination by forcing them to accept prospective adoptive or foster parents whose lifestyles or religious worldviews conflict with the agency's religious principles." Our letter is posted here.
And, now word from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who says the proposed regulation "does not comport with applicable state law and public policy." In a memo to the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Attorney General's office concluded: "Therefore the State Board lacks the authority to adopt this proposed language."
At the same time, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has repeatedly said that he opposes the regulations because faith-based organizations should be able to make their own policies.
"I know I had said during the campaign that I would essentially keep our adoption laws -- which I think are good -- the way they are now," McDonnell told reporters. "I think the current regulations that are in place seem to be working well." The Governor added: "Many of our adoption agencies are faith-based groups that ought to be able to establish what their own policies are."
We're pleased that state officials - including the Governor and Attorney General - recognize that this proposed regulation is not only bad law, but bad policy as well.
We will keep you posted on the outcome of this issue.