Kids Pay the Price (Movement Advancement Project)It’s no secret to most readers here that so-called “religious freedom” laws on adoption and foster care in several states are nothing more than permission to discriminate—often against LGBTQ prospective parents and LGBTQ youth, among others. The ultimate effect is that child welfare agencies are allowed to act in ways contrary to the best interests of the children in their care. When a leading LGBTQ equality think tank tried to place a 30-second ad about this on Fox News, however, the network refused to air it.

The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released the ad in conjunction with its new report, “Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Services Harm Children.” The document offers a frightening look at the current landscape (which I wrote about myself in March), where seven states— Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia—currently allow social service agencies to discriminate by citing religious beliefs as reason to:

  • Not let a child in need of foster care or adoption be placed with families headed by LGBTQ people, single people, divorced people, cohabiting unmarried couples, or of a different religion or religious practice (or lack thereof), even if this means the child must stay in a government group home;
  • Not let a child be adopted by an extended family member, often seen as in the best interests of the child, if the person falls into any of the above categories;
  • Not place LGBTQ youth with accepting parents, but instead with parents who intend to force them into conversion therapy;
  • Refuse to facilitate family reunification, if the family falls into any of the categories listed above.

Even scarier, the report reminds us that the U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation, H.R. 1881, that would cut federal funding for child welfare services by 15 percent to any state that required that its child services organizations not discriminate against families or children in care, and would limit federal agencies’ ability to enforce these provisions.

And lest we forget: there currently 428,000 children in state care in the U.S., with more than 100,000 of them awaiting adoption. MAP tells us that “States consistently report that one of the biggest obstacles to providing stability for children in state care is finding interested, qualified families who want to foster or adopt.” Any legislation that limits these qualified families is only hurting children.

MAP naturally wanted to spread the word about this among an audience that needed to know, so they created a 30-second commercial, in partnership with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and tried to buy time on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. The network refused, however—MAP tells us it was because they found it “too powerful.”

I think powerful is the point.

The good news is that the ad was also released to coincide with the ACLU of Michigan’s new lawsuit challenging that state’s “religious freedom” law, on behalf of two two-women couples who want to become adoptive parents, and one woman who herself spent years in foster care and “objects to taxpayer dollars being used to fund agencies that make it harder for children to find the families they need.” I suspect it’s not the last such lawsuit we’ll see in the months ahead.