Monday, March 12, 2018

OK Baptists, Catholics support adoption protection bill

Baptist leaders champion Oklahoma adoption protection bill

OKLAHOMA CITY—Oklahoma State Senators are set to consider Senate Bill 1140 this week. The bill, which was authored by State Sen. Greg Treat, would codify religious liberty protections for faith-based adoption providers in Oklahoma.

Baptist leaders, including Hance Dilbeck, Anthony Jordan and Russell Moore, have spoken out in favor of SB 1140.

In a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers, Dilbeck, who now serves as Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Executive Director-Treasurer said, “Southern Baptists in Oklahoma have a long history of involvement in adoption and caring for children in need of homes. We recognized that faith-based organizations have been on the leading edge of providing hope and good homes for children in need of adoption or foster care.

“We have been alarmed and outraged to learn of threats to the religious liberty and moral convictions of faith-based agencies other parts of the country, such as Massachusetts. In Oklahoma, now is the time to ensure equal opportunity and protection for individuals and groups involved in foster care and adoption. Indeed the very survival and future of such organizations depends upon it.” Jordan, who recently retired as BGCO executive director-treasurer, co-signed the letter with Dilbeck.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, also voices support for the bill.

“I write to express my support of SB 1140. I am grateful to Senator Greg Treat for his leadership on this critical legislation. As Southern Baptists we affirm adoption as a life-giving alternative for vulnerable women and consider orphan care to be of vital importance. We also believe religious freedom is a biblical teaching that is essential to American life and, thankfully, enshrined in the United States Constitution. The successful passage of SB 1140 is essential to the preservation of both.”

Moore added, “Faith-based adoption and foster care agencies ought not have to choose between providing children with loving families and following their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage and family. As the ability of such agencies to help facilitate adoptions according to their deeply held convictions is being attacked, several states including Virginia, Texas, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, and others see it fit to protect their faith based adoption providers in this way. We stand with many others with thanks for your support of SB 1140 and Oklahoma’s effort to protect the religious liberty of those serving vulnerable children.”

Oklahoma faith leaders lend support for adoption protection

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s Catholic bishops joined leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma on Friday in support of Senate Bill 1140. The bill provides protection for faith-based adoption services that are desperately needed to reduce the number of children waiting to be matched with loving families.

SB 1140, authored by Sen. Greg Treat, mirrors similar laws recently passed in Virginia, Michigan, South Dakota, Texas and elsewhere. Oklahoma has a statutory environment that discourages new adoption services to open, speci´Čücally faith-based agencies. Many would-be agencies have reported that they fear potential religious discrimination and lawsuits that may come from a future state administration.

In states like Massachusetts, Illinois, California and the District of Columbia, faith-based agencies have been forced to close after new regulations were promulgated that would have mandated changes to their adoption criteria in violation of their religious principles.

“In Oklahoma, there are many adoptive parents eagerly waiting for the opportunity to adopt and ultimately raise a child. Part of the problem is we lack a sufficient number of agencies to provide and handle the adoptions,” said The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City. “I applaud Sen. Treat’s leadership on SB 1140, which will encourage new adoption services and provide important protections for faith-based adoption agencies.”

Contrary to opposing rhetoric in recent days, the bill does not change current practice for adoption agencies. Sen. Treat’s measure simply codifies the long-standing practice of faith-based agencies adhering to adoption practices that are consistent with their mission.

“As Oklahoma Baptists, we want to voice our strong support of Senate Bill 1140, which we believe is necessary to protect the religious liberty of faith-based adoption providers in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Hance Dilbeck, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “Faith-based organizations have been on the leading edge of providing hope and good homes for children in need of adoption or foster care. This legislation will undoubtedly draw opposition and overreaction from some, including those who may claim this would hinder same-sex couples or others from adopting. Yet, we all recognize that same-sex couples are afforded the opportunity to adopt in all 50 states. This proposed policy only would ensure that groups cannot compel faith-based organizations to act against their consciences and statements of faith.”

The Most Rev. David Konderla, Bishop of Tulsa, added, “Some faith-based agencies are reluctant to open their doors without the legal protections that Sen. Treat’s bill offers. We welcome these protections and the ultimate flourishing of new adoption agencies in Oklahoma.”

This past year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled organizations that receive state funds or other support cannot be denied the right to exercise their religious mission. Sen. Treat’s bill will enshrine that decision in Oklahoma statute.

The bill has been passed out of Senate committee. It awaits approval by the full Senate before being sent to the House for consideration. Rep. Travis Dunlap is the House author of the measure.


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