God save the children of the Great Lake Beast.
The Michigan Legislature is playing a dangerous game of chicken with the children in its care — and now Gov. Rick Snyder has exacerbated the danger by signing cynical legislation into law.
On Wednesday, Republican majorities in both chambers approved a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies — including those who take taxpayer dollars to place children who are in the state’s custody — to discriminate in the practice of their work. They can deny services to families that violate the agency’s religious beliefs, including unmarried couples, same-sex couples and those who hold different religious beliefs.
The legislation is a craven attempt to cloak discrimination in faith, and it leaves the best interests of the 13,000 children in the state’s care — entirely out of the equation.
Even worse, it sends Michigan in the exact wrong direction just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court could invalidate all legislative or constitutional provisions that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Should that happen, this statute, along with bigoted laws in states around the country, would fall like their predecessors — Jim Crow-era laws and regulations — after landmark rulings in the 1960s.
Actually, that’s wrong.
Perhaps this is why people believe in souls. Because sometimes something hurts and it is hard to explain just what.
No, I cannot tell you where it hurts.
It just does.
The political tantrum does no good. This really is part of a larger, bizarre outcome whereby a cultural tradition of compassion manages to defy itself in its own name. And it keeps happening. And it is a broad-spectrum neurotic complex.
Think about all the cheap political points. Pro life until you’re born. That one really sucks, you know? Our society hasn’t figured out how to take care of the people we have, so let’s find ways to force women to bring more into the world.
Really, that does also seem like a bullshit point to drag into this all, but it’s also a starting point.
Because the thirteen thousand children under care of the State of Michigan for want of stable homes are among those people society cannot properly care for at this time. And Michigan just went out of its way to make things worse, to pitch a temper tantrum all over these kids.
It is true that many unplanned pregnancies are viewed as wanted; it is also true that circumstances in families that plan and want children can fall awry. By and large, however, the most part of children who enter foster care are unplanned and unwanted. These are the children emerging from homes riddled with drugs, violence, exploitation, and other horrors of crawling chaos.
And the same people who aim to deprive women of reproductive health services, resulting as such in more unplanned and unwanted children, are now taking out unrelated frustrations on displaced children.
In the name of Jesus Christ, at that.
Face it. There are Muslims in Michigan. And Jews. And Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, atheists, and plenty that I’ve managed to leave off the list. These are not the people driving this hateful new law.
It is easy enough to link together any number of messy issues generally driven by a neurotically crippled assertion of Christian faith. Michigan has chosen a particularly damaging manner of expressing such Christian spite. This is plain vicious cruelty.
Author Ashley Rhodes-Courter recently appealed against the Michigan law, as well as bills in other states:
Sadly, across the United States over 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year without the love and support of a family or a healthy support community. These youth often become criminals, homeless, teen parents, or are victims of drugs, violence, or suicide. There is a significant shortage of foster and adoptive families willing to nurture these children.
Yet many state legislatures are proposing bills that would further diminish the pool of qualified people who want to offer permanency to children languishing in foster care. These bills would allow agencies to reject families or individuals based on “religious” grounds. By denying children a chance to have a family, the shortage of available homes will be exacerbated, and more of these youth may never find permanency. Every foster child deserves to have every chance to find a loving home.
Decisions to block adoptions based on gender, race, or sexual orientation impact more than just the forgotten children. Unattached children can have a lifelong negative impact on society. The cost of keeping youth in state care burdens taxpayers. We should be giving agencies the tools and resources to engage more families — not give them the ability to discourage or turn away suitable applicants.
The Editorial Board of the Detroit Free Press explains:
The truth is that Michigan’s approach to dealing with the 13,000 children in its care is at real risk of collapsing if the Supreme Court invalidates all state-sponsored discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Right now, about 50% of the state’s adoption work is performed by religious agencies who, in the likely coming legal reality, won’t be able to or won’t want to receive taxpayer money because they discriminate.
Faced with the loss of that kind of capacity, lawmakers and the governor should be panicked — and seeking some alternative way to ensure the state’s 13,000 in-custody children continue to see adoption opportunities.
Should Michigan develop a more robust in-house government approach to adoption services, in preparation for the possible loss of services from religious agencies? Are there other, nonreligious private options that ought to be explored? Pursuing any of those routes wouldn’t just be wise — it’s crucial, at this point.
In the end, this is about gay marriage. And it comes about because these services are threatening the state over Obergefell. Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press reported:
Snyder’s office included letters from Bethany Christian Services and the Michigan Catholic Conference, which account for 25-30% of the foster care and adoption placements in the state, that expressed fear that Michigan would be like Washington D.C.. Boston, San Francisco or Illinois where faith-based agencies were forced to close when they had to choose between opening their doors to all or risk losing funding.
“If House bills 4188-4190 are not signed into law, and if statewide policy changes in a way that would force Catholic agencies to choose between violating strongly held religious beliefs or ceasing cooperation with the state, the agencies will cease to cooperate,” Paul Long, President of the Michigan Catholic Conference wrote Snyder.
Basically, this is about a bunch of Christians saying they’ll quit if they’re not allowed to discriminate against others. Once again, their equality requires supremacy under law.
Religious freedom should not have victims.
Editorial Board. “Anti-gay adoption bill another shameful moment for Michigan”. Detroit Free Press. 11 June 2015.
Rhodes-Courter, Ashley. “Why Do States Want to Deny Foster Children a Place to Call Home?”. American Civil Liberties Union. 22 April 2015.
Gray, Kathleen. “ACLU may challenge newly-signed law on adoption by gays”. Detroit Free Press. 11 June 2015.