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Virginia Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Religious Liberty


CHARLOTTE HAYS

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
3/6/2012

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ABSTRACTVirginia Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Child-Care Agencies That Decline Homosexual Adoptions | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  April 8, 2012   Donate Archives Blogs Store Resources Advertise Jobs Radio Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Christmas Music Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tim Drake Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Editorial Calendar Order Web Ad Order Print Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News Virginia Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Child-Care Agencies That Decline Homosexual Adoptions (1662) Bishops of the state hail passage as victory for religious liberty. Share by CHARLOTTE HAYS 03/06/2012 Comments (11) Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. – Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News A bill that ensures that faith-based adoption agencies in the state of Virginia won’t be forced to place children in households led by same-sex couples has passed both houses of the General Assembly and is heading to the desk of Gov. Robert McDonnell, a supporter of the legislation, who is expected to sign it soon. The bill passed in the state Senate on a 22-18 vote and by 71 to 28 in the House of Delegates. Speaking on behalf of Virginia’s Catholic bishops, who strongly supported the bill, Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, called passage of the bill “a tremendous victory for our first freedom, religious liberty.” “Private, religious-based adoption agencies are a major asset to our communities as they work diligently to find loving, caring, stable homes for children in need of care,” Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email. “This legislation will help ensure that these adoption agencies remain active in finding homes for these children,” Caldwell continued, “without being mandated by government to violate the tenets of their deeply held religious beliefs in the process. This is a bill that reaffirms religious liberty and freedom, a hallmark of this great nation.” “This move strengthens First Amendment protections and safeguards our ability to assist those many families who seek and depend on our help,” said Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Virginia’s three Catholic Charities agencies together placed 137 children in adoptive homes and provided 307 foster-care placements for children, according to Caruso, who hailed the bill as “explicit conscience protection” for Catholic agencies, which now “can’t be forced to do placements that violate their moral and religious beliefs.” Although the word “homosexual” is not used, the bill clearly exempts faith-based agencies from having to allow homosexuals to adopt: According to the bill, “to the extent allowed by federal law,” private agencies will not have to make placements that require the agency to violate its “written religious or moral convictions.” In order for it to be constitutional, the law has to align with federal anti-discrimination laws. ‘Theft From the Church’ Caruso said the legislation came about as the result of a regulatory process last year in which the question of whether to force private agencies, including faith-based ones, to disregard factors such as “sexual orientation” and “family status” when placing children in homes figured prominently. Though provisions seen as objectionable to faith-based organizations were rejected by the State Board of Social Services, leaders of religiously based, private child-placement agencies worried that the issue would continue to arise and that eventually they would be forced to violate their consciences. As a result of this concern, Caruso said, the Virginia Catholic Conference, along with Virginia Bishops Paul Loverde of Arlington and Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond, made it a “top priority” to see that statutes were enacted by the General Assembly to ensure conscience protection. A statement by the Virginia Catholic Conference says that the bill “ensures that Virginia’s children can continue to be served by faith-based agencies and that Virginia’s birthparents and prospective adoptive parents can continue to choose agencies that share their values.” While not breaking new ground, the bill codifies the current situation. Virginia permits single people and married couples to adopt. Since homosexual “marriage” is not legal in the state, two homosexuals living together could not adopt under.......