State House Bill Could Deny Adoptions Based On Religious Beliefs

There are approximately 3,800 children currently up for adoption in Texas. Lawmakers are debating House Bill 3859, which would allow faith-based agencies to deny an adoption if the applicant was in opposition to its religious beliefs.

Many congregants at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas will watch what happens with this bill closely.

"I think that any House bill that enforces discrimination or says that one group is better than another group is not in line with the principles and values of America," said Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas.

The pastor has a unique position is this debate. Not only is he a clergyman, but he and his husband are also adopted parents.

"We adopted Sofia actually from birth. We were present at the birth," he said. "She is the best kid ever. But, I know every parent wants to say that about their own."

The bill is meant to protect agencies who would deny adoptions that would be in conflict with its religious beliefs. Cazares-Thomas can't imagine a caring, loving would-be parent being turned away.

"To use religion to discriminate and to justify your discrimination goes against everything that Jesus spoke of," he said.

"This is not just about the LGBT community. [It would also affect] single people, divorced couple, people who married inter-religiously – Jewish and Christian or Muslim," he added.

The bill's sponsor, State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, said without the protections the organizations could pull out of the system and hurt the already critical shortage of foster homes.

"There are other agencies that will come along and replace them if they don't want to work with LGBT couples, and we've seen that in other parts of the country," Cazares-Thomas said.

Representatives for Dallas-based Buckner International traveled to Austin to support the bill.

"House Bill 3859 provides conscience protection for faith-based providers like Buckner Children and Family Services who cannot abandon the tenets of our faith," Randy Daniels said in a statement.

"We believe there is room for all of us to care for these children, and we believe this bill ensures the inclusion of everyone while enabling us to adhere to our deeply held religious convictions," he added.

Cazares-Thomas said he thinks the bill is unconstitutional and he would rather see money going to help the children than being spent to eventually fight the measure in the court system.

"I will support the religious freedom of anyone to believe whatever they want, but I don't believe in enforcing that through legislation," he said.

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