Adopting Bias: New Va. Rules Seek To Safeguard 'Faith-Based' Bigotry
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 11:10:37 AM EST
Legislators and media pundits in Washington, D.C., continue to obsess over the birth control mandate in the new health care law and whether church-related institutions like hospitals and colleges must provide contraceptive coverage.

While that's going, a quieter tussle in Virginia has captured fewer national headlines. That's a shame because a debate over adoption by same-sex couples in that state is perhaps a better indicator of where the Religious Right wants to take this country.

The Virginia legislature is firmly in the hands of far-right lawmakers, and Gov. Robert McDonnell, is a graduate of TV preacher Pat Robertson's Regent University. A dark cloud of Religious Right-style conservatism hangs over the Old Dominion.

A band of extreme legislators decided to start with adoptions. Virginia, like a lot of states, contracts with private agencies to facilitate adoptions. Many of these agencies are "faith based." The old rule was that they had to serve all potential parents and apply neutral criteria to the process. An agency would investigate a person or couple wanting to adopt and reject only those who failed some objective standard - they had a criminal background, their references didn't work out, they appeared unfit to raise a child, etc.

Under new rules that are expected to become law soon, faith-based adoption agencies will be permitted to deny services to anyone who fails to meet their theological litmus test. In other words, a couple could pass a criminal background check with flying colors, receive top marks from every reference, show proof of steady employment - and still be denied the right to adopt because they are gay.

This type of bigotry, while obnoxious, might be permissible in a purely privately funded agency run by a church. But as I said, most of these adoption agencies operate in a quasi-public fashion on behalf of the government, and they receive taxpayer funding.

State Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat from Roanoke, got it exactly right when he said, "You have a right to exercise religion as you see fit, but you don't have a right to impose it on someone else using state dollars."

And, while this is primarily a fight over adoption by gay couples, no one should think it stops there. The new Virginia policy is much broader than that. It allows faith-based agencies to deny adoption services to anyone who offends the agency's religious or moral beliefs.

Let's say you're straight but you and your spouse are deemed not religious enough, or they don't like the fact that one of you had a previous marriage. You're out the door too.

The Religious Right/Catholic hierarchy theory on this is simple: They want it all. They want access to your tax money to provide various social services. They want as little accountability or oversight as possible. (No accountability at all is their preference.) They demand the right to run the programs as they see fit according to their theology. They even insist that this is a constitutional right and that any attempt to impose another perspective on them - no matter widespread the consensus - is a violation of their "religious freedom."

The more "accommodations" these groups win, the more they will demand - and the more rights of everyone else they will trample on.

There was an article in the news stating that President Obama is going to cave to the RC church and the Religious Right on requiring their social service insurance to cover birth control.

I wish your article would be put on his desk before he does so.  It points out the error in supporting groups like that, and why the "Faith-based initiative" is such a bad idea.  We need to reinforce separation of church and state, not weaken it.

They're railing against LGBT people adopting down here too.  I'm pretty sure that Florida has removed the bigoted laws against LGBT people adopting, but the churches are clearly NOT happy with it.  If Virginia allows bigoted discrimination, I expect Florida to follow - and there may be children stripped from loving homes and sent back into the "system".

(I admit I've not been keeping up with the legal stuff down here... too much to do and not enough time.  I DO pick up on the attitudes and attempts to force theocracy, however - you can't miss that.  It's too blatant.)

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 11:42:35 AM EST

and this worries me for religious reasons as well. I am fully in support of LGBT rights and also of freedom from religious discrimination at taxpayer expense. I am Pagan clergy, and I am sure the good ol' boys would be just as happy to deny adoption to Pagans as they would to Atheists or Little Green [insert epithet here] from Mars. How to speak out effectively is the question. Where I live, the more liberal voices win elections -- but the southern counties seem to dominate the legislature.

by Khalila RedBird on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 03:13:49 PM EST

I disagree with the bishops on the recent HHS rule and in refusing to allow gay couples to adopt. The bishops think they are the sole voice of the institutional Church, but there are many of us who disagree with them. It's pretty obvious to me that the bishops are making a political play to appeal to the Religious Right.

by khughes1963 on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 12:44:01 PM EST

I think that the church state divide is a good way to say to church folks that you have the right to these services but only if you fund it with your own money not the publics money. this is true of all organizations that claim religion as the sole reason for denial of services.

by Melmoo758 on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 05:51:07 PM EST

 Whenever I see articles on the latest antics within the State of Virginia, I am reminded of a shaeful incident years ago. The late Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wanted to open a hospice for infants with HIV/AIDS, in Virginia. She was promptly inundated with hate mail & death threats.

by Bartski on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 01:44:52 AM EST

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