Top Stories of 2018: Faith and Discrimination

faith-based child welfare
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who this year made her state the eighth to pass laws protecting the right of faith-based groups to discriminate in child welfare services. Photo by the Office of the Governor

 We’re counting down 10 of the biggest stories The Chronicle of Social Change published in 2018. Each day, we’ll connect readers with a few links to our coverage on a big story from 2018.

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court made clear that same-sex marriage was the new law of the land. This ended for good the ability of states to ban same-sex couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

But some (not all) faith-based child welfare providers refuse to operate without the ability to follow religious philosophy in choosing who to serve. And in 10 states now, those organizations have succeeded in gaining state-level protection for providers that want discriminatory power in carrying out government contracts.

Those 10 states are:  Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.

The laws vary in language, but are essentially the same. States are not allowed to take adverse action against a faith-based grantee who discriminates in accordance with the religious philosophy of the organization. This could be limited to the adults – adoptive couples or foster parent candidates – or extend to actually turning away foster youths.

This issue seems destined for a Supreme Court battle down the road – state divisions of the ACLU, as well as LGBTQ rights advocates, have mounted legal challenges in several states already. And in 2018, the fight jumped to the national level with a lawsuit against the federal government and an attempt to pass a national law protecting faith-based groups.

Lead Read

Lesbian Couple Who Did Not ‘Mirror the Holy Family’ Denied Chance to Foster Refugee Kids, by Christie Renick, recounts Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin’s efforts to serve as a foster family for refugee children in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But Catholic Charities of Forth Worth, a grantee responsible for recruiting such families, turned them away because they did not “mirror the holy family” – even though the organization had sought Marouf out as a consultant earlier.

Also Read

John Kelly on an attempt by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) to work a faith-based protection bill, which had been introduced years before, into this year’s House appropriations process. He did not succeed.

From Terrence Scraggins, former foster youth and veteran of the U.S. Navy: For LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care, Finding Home is Hard.

Michael Fitzgerald on Every Child Deserves a Family, a campaign to fight against faith-based protection laws and recruit LGBTQ foster families.

Sandy Banks on Los Angeles’ non-discriminatory push to involve more churches in child welfare.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1210 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at