- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2015

Private, faith-based agencies in Michigan will now be able to place needy children with foster and adoptive families without compromising their religious beliefs, according to a set of laws signed Thursday by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Mr. Snyder said he signed the law to make sure “we get the largest number of kids in forever families,” dismissing accusations that the law was designed to prevent gay couples from adopting.

The Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) thanked Mr. Snyder and the state legislature for protecting the rights of faith-based agencies to serve vulnerable populations.

“Michigan thrives on diversity,” and these measures will ensure faith-based agencies are able to operate “according to their conscience,” the MCC said.

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan wasted no time in asking prospective applicants — especially same-sex couples, religious minorities, single parents and people who do not share the religious beliefs of a given agency — to contact them for a possible lawsuit.

These faith-based agencies “are receiving state money to perform a public function and are therefore state actors,” Rana Elmir, deputy director of ACLU of Michigan, said Thursday.

Mr. Snyder “has proven today that he has utter disdain for the welfare of children in Michigan and that he cares only about empowering backwards discrimination,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Thursday. “This legislation keeps children in need out of the loving homes they deserve, and it sets this great state back decades.”

Mr. Snyder said the law will allow faith-based organizations to stay true to their core values without fear of being forced out of their mission.

“The more opportunities and organizations we have that are doing a good job of placing people in loving families, isn’t that better for all of us?” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Bethany Christian Services, Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities handle many adoptions in Michigan, said the Michigan Family Forum, which supported the new laws, known as House Bills 4188-4190.

The measures affect the way the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services works with private, faith-based agencies that find temporary or permanent homes for some 13,000 abused, neglected or abandoned children in state care.

The laws permit agencies to operate under their “sincerely held religious beliefs” that are outlined in a written policy, statement of faith or other document to find the best homes for these vulnerable children. If an agency declines to work with an applicant, they are to promptly refer them to other agencies, the new law says.

Faith-based child-welfare agencies have long worried they would be forced to shutter.

In 2011, for instance, Illinois ended its child-welfare contracts with Catholic Charities because the agency referred unwed couples to other agencies.

Child-placement agencies in Massachusetts and California were also forced to “operate contrary to their moral teachings or close their doors,” noted the Citizens for Traditional Values, which applauded the new child-welfare measures.

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