Republicans continue to shepherd legislation through the Tennessee General Assembly to protect faith-based child placement agencies against discrimination for exercising their religious liberties provided by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
State Rep. Tim Rudd (R-TN-34) and Sen. Mark Pody (R-TN-17) are the sponsors. The bills are HB 836 and SB 1304. The tracking information is here.
The legislation passed recently in the State House by a 67-22 vote. It has been placed on the final calendar of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to be heard either this week or the week of April 23.
“The legislation simply states that a private child placement agency that provides a written statement of their religious beliefs and policies that are within that allowed by federal law shall not be sued or (discriminated) against by the state or local government when applying for a license, grants or contracts,” Rudd said in a press release.
Co-sponsor State Rep. John Ragan (R-TN-33) said, “This legislation does not change how public or private child placement agencies currently operate or place children. It simply gives protections for agencies exercising their First Amendment liberties.”
Rudd said, “This legislation does not prevent or enable adoptions against any group. It only protects faith-based agencies from being discriminated against.”
The legislation prohibits the Department of Children’s Services from denying a placement agency a license or license renewal “because of the agency’s objection to performing, assisting, counseling, recommending, consenting to, referring, or participating in a placement that violates the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies,” Christian News said.
Faith-based foster care and adoption agencies in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia have been forced to shut down for their religious beliefs about marriage.
The U.S. House of Representatives is debating H.R. 5, the Equality Act of 2019. The legislation would amend The Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as federally protected classes. This would pose a major risk to religious freedom, state independence, and women’s rights, Rudd and Pody said.
“Those opposed to this legislation are the same people and organizations that support legislation to prevent churches from offering counseling to LGBT individuals and silencing Pastors in the pulpit,” said Rudd.
Pody said, “Those in support of discriminating against faith-based child placement agencies and against traditional conservative values do not reflect Tennessee values. Our state is drawing a line in the sand against the war on religious liberty and in defense of our constitutional First Amendment rights.”
“The Tennessee House of Representatives has led the fight in defense of religious liberty. I have every confidence the State Senate will uphold the conservative values Tennessee was built on. We in the Senate join the House in taking a stand in defense of our nation’s principled history against religious persecution,” Pody concluded.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.