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Faith Leaders Speak Out Against "License to Discriminate" in Adoption

PHOTO: A controversial package of bills that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve those who violate there religious beliefs is headed to the state Senate for a vote. Photo credit: acrylicartist/morguefile.
PHOTO: A controversial package of bills that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve those who violate there religious beliefs is headed to the state Senate for a vote. Photo credit: acrylicartist/morguefile.
April 23, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - As 3,000 Michigan children sit waiting for adoptive families, legislation which would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve those that violate their religious beliefs, such as same-sex or unmarried couples, has advanced in Lansing.

Randy Block, director with the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, heads up a coalition of interfaith leaders opposed to the bills. He says any agency which accepts state funding simply cannot discriminate.

"We strongly believe we should have religious freedom, but that is protected by the U.S. and the state constitutions, and this freedom should not harm other people in the exercise," Block says.

The package of bills already has passed the Republican-led House, and after two hours of testimony on Thursday, was approved on party lines and sent to the full Senate.

Supporters of the legislation, including the Michigan Catholic Conference, say the bills are a way to honor the religious beliefs of faith-based agencies. But Block says his group, which includes Episcopalians, Catholics, Muslims and Jews, is outraged religion is being used as a cover for what he calls blatant discrimination.

"People of faith believe people should be treated with dignity and we need to do what's best for all children and families, not just reinforce a particular religious belief that may actually contradict other religious beliefs," he says.

Outrage erupted earlier this month when Indiana's governor signed similar so-called religious freedom legislation, leading to a backlash from social and business groups nationwide. A wide range of groups has spoken out in opposition to the adoption bills, including the Michigan ACLU, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI