Can A Faith-based Adoption Agency Refuse You Service?

If you're considering the adoption process as a way to start or expand your family, you may be looking into the use of a state or local adoption agency. However, new legislation proposed in some states (including Michigan) may make it legal for a faith-based adoption agency to refuse services to individuals who violate the agency's deeply-held religious beliefs. Read on to learn more about these proposed laws and how they may affect your ability to adopt. 

Is it currently legal for a faith-based adoption agency to refuse services for religious reasons?

The adoption process is fraught with legal and ethical requirements -- and for good reason. The decision to place a child with a specific family is the most important decision in that child's life. In addition to undergoing a home visit and background check, your adoption agency may require you to attend parenting classes, CPR training, or other educational programs designed to help you give your new child the best start possible.

In some situations, the adoption agency may decline to provide services for a family -- for example, if one parent has a felony conviction, or the family lives in a very small, squalid home not suitable for children, the agency may determine that assisting this family in adoption would not be in the best interest of any potential adopted child. 

However, in many states, adoption agencies that receive federal and state funding or subsidies are not permitted to discriminate against potential adoptive families for a purely religious or moral reason. The proposed legislation in several states would permit faith-based adoption agencies (even those that accept state and federal funding) to deny services to families based on religious beliefs. This means that same-sex couples, unmarried couples, atheists, and pagans may all be legally denied adoption services by these agencies.

What should you do if this legislation is passed in your state? 

If these laws take effect, there will certainly be lawsuits filed on behalf of groups affected by the change. Depending on how the state supreme courts rule on these issues, they may eventually make their way to the US Supreme Court. 

If you've not yet partnered with a specific adoption agency, but feel you are in one of the groups being targeted by these changes in laws, you may wish to seek out a secular or non-denominational adoption agency. This can ensure that any new legislation passed during your adoption process will not affect you.

If you're already working with a faith-based agency, you may want to have a frank conversation about how the agency might respond if these bills were to become law. If your agency indicates that they'll continue to work with you due to your pre-existing relationship, you may have nothing to worry about. If your agency seems reluctant to commit to a certain stance, you may want to preemptively begin looking to other agencies.

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