Texas legislature protects groups that deny adoptions to non-Christians, gays, and single parents “on religious grounds”

I had no idea that state-funded adoption agencies in Texas could refuse to allow children to be adopted by gays, non-Christians, or single parents—on religious grounds alone. Although some of these organizations are faith-based, all concerned with Texas bill HB 3859 also get taxpayer funds. That means that discriminating against adoptive parents on religious grounds would seem to violate both the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In practice, these agencies are Christian, and so could (and have) denied adoption rights to couples (or single people) of the “wrong” faith (read Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc.)

Here’s one bit of that bill, protecting those agencies from being sued for discriminating (my emphasis); note the gratuitous clause 3, which protects those agencies that refuse to help people get contraceptives or abortions:

CHILD WELFARE SERVICES PROVIDERS PROTECTED. A governmental entity or any person that contracts with this state or operates under governmental authority to refer or place children for child welfare services may not discriminate or take any adverse action against a child welfare services provider on the basis, wholly or partly, that the provider: (1) has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for child welfare services that conflict with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider ’s sincerely held religious beliefs; (2) provides or intends to provide children under the control, care, guardianship, or direction of the provider with a religious education, including through placing the children in a private or parochial school or otherwise providing a religious education in accordance with the laws of this state; (3) has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for abortions, contraceptives, or drugs, devices, or services that are potentially abortion-inducing; or (4) refuses to enter into a contract that is inconsistent with or would in any way interfere with or force a provider to surrender the rights created by this chapter.

As PBS reported on May 7:

Five other states have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents or other households on religious grounds — but Texas’ rule would extend to state-funded agencies. Only South Dakota’s is similarly sweepingly.

The bill had been scheduled for debate and approval Saturday in the state House, but lawmakers bogged down with other matters. It now is expected to come up next week.

Republican sponsors of Texas’ bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. Many of the agencies are private and faith-based but receive state funds.

But opponents say it robs children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.

“This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief,” said Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. “This goes against the best interest of the child.”

On May 9, the Texas House passed that bill 94-51, and then it was sent to the Texas Senate.

Last Sunday, the Texas Senate passed the bill, It now goes to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. who will sign it because, according to CNN, it was a bill he wanted. Further, to add discrimination to discrimination, Texas passed a bathroom bill the same day:

The same day, the Texas House of Representatives approved a limited “bathroom bill” that would require public high school students to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. The measure now goes back to the Senate, which previously approved a broader version mandating that standard for everyone using public restrooms.

Abbott had made the issue a priority for the legislative session. Meanwhile, Texas lawmakers also have proposed bills or amendments allowing “religious liberty” exemptions for lawyers, pharmacists and nurses.
Opponents of the bills, who say they target vulnerable children, are outraged. One critic on Twitter called it “discrimination Sunday.”

Indeed it was.  Since children aren’t born with a stamp that says “Christian,” or have genes that make them accept Jesus, discriminating against adoptive parents this way not only is government-funded proselytizing, but deprives children of loving homes. Let us hope that some aggrieved and deprived parent takes this bill to Federal court, and, that with respect to the bathroom bill, Texas will suffer the same opprobrium as did North Carolina, which repealed a similar bathroom bill in March after nationwide criticism and the creation of economic boycotts.

We are two countries now, but I hope this won’t hold. Bills like these are the last gasp of Christians and homophobes against an increasingly secular (and moral) populace. Yes, Trump was elected, but it was close, and I have my trust in the thesis of Steve Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, which shows pretty convincingly that the world is getting better. (Do read that book; it’s great and only $13 in paperback.) That improvement also means a country less religious and less bigoted.

Texas is swimming against the current.


  1. David Duncan
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    “…Steve Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, which shows pretty convincingly that the world is getting better.”

    I haven’t read it and will try to get a copy, but…

    His thesis seems a bit optimistic in the light of what happened in Cambodia and, more recently, Manchester and elsewhere.

    • Tom
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Having quickly reread the Better Angels since thia post appeared (I really read it months ago) I agree that Texas is becoming a moral backwater.
      The irony of this legislation is that it is so similar to what the militant Catholics have longed for yet in a country that for much of its history regarded the Catholic sect with the deepest suspicion.
      Is a mass conversion by Texans imminent?

      • Tom
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        “thia” should be “this” ( must take more gin with my water)

      • Historian
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Pinker’s argument is a snapshot in time. He may be correct that most of the metrics indicate that the world has never been better. There is no guarantee that this positive trend will continue, particularly in light of the threats of climate change, pandemics and bioterrorism or nuclear terrorism. This attitude of “things were never better” was prevalent among the elites prior to 1914. We all know what happened in that year.

        • Tom
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it may all come to a violent end tomorrow however the evidence up to today is positive. After all we were destined to blow ourselves into tiny pieces in the fifties and sixties.
          Civilisation was then to perish during the race riots of the seventies and eighties and so on.
          We are good at predicting the correct future of past times (we all know what Hitler should have done) but the tomorrows future is somewhat more bothersome.
          There is also a lot of white noise generated today from various nations and groups eager to join the top table. The pessimism they tend to generate is always far greater than their meager abilities.

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          But is that a good argument? We also know that the world is a great deal better than 1914. For one, we went from > 80 % extremely poor to < 20 % in a century. We also have hit peak child while having more (enough) food available per capita. And so on.

        • nicky
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          Historian, for once I respectfully disagree. Pinker’s thesis is that there is a continuous, bumpy-but-steady, decline in violence since, basically, the Neolithic (despite world wars and Great Leaps Forward). I think he makes a very good argument too.
          Whether that is a guarantee for the future is, of course, a moot subject.

          • Historian
            Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

            I am not denying the Pinker thesis as an accurate description of the past and the present. I am simply saying 1) that for people living through traumatic events such as world wars and pandemics the general upward trend of the human condition provides little solace and 2) because we live in an age unlike any other (technologically and scientifically) that the upward trend can be reversed (and quickly) by cataclysmic events impossible to have taken place previously. In other words, the Pinker thesis provides me little comfort. When man made climate changes threatens life on this planet as we know it, I cannot take on faith that such an event is a bump-in-the-road on mankind’s journey to an ever getting better future.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Pinker’s thesis isn’t that improvement is monotonic, only that improvement has been the general trend. And he backs that thesis up with copious statistics.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      My mildly pessimistic vision on this subject has been colored by reading a lot of sci-fi that features the same age-old conflicts between superstitions integrated into societies that should know better. As should ours.

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Texas, and some of the other states have no concept of separation of church and state. To them it is simply freedom of religion and they truly believe in a theocratic state where the lines between their religion and the state are never in conflict.

    Why are they allowed state money at a religious adoption agency or school or anything? As soon as you cross this line you are lost. It is getting worse all the time, not better.

    • C.J.
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Correction: you mean “To them it is simply freedom of Christianity…” or rather, Christian privilege. They really don’t like the idea of freedom of religion, if those religions or lack thereof conflicts with The Word.

      • Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        To be *slightly* charitable, I think you might get a fair number agreeing that you can be any religion you want, so long as it is “Judeo-Christian”.

        (This is nutty, unconstitutional and bigoted, but an improvement over what it was in 1700!)

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Sure but you won’t see them saying Christian privilege. They use religious freedom because that is politically acceptable. Today we could just skip all of that and say republican – it is all the same thing. I think it was during Bush’s time that the lines between church and state began crossing. He loved that faith based mix with the government in all kinds of things and it was off to the races since then.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        In some states – I think Arizona was one – religious freedom bills have failed at the last minute because people have suddenly realized it gives the same rights to Muslims. The purpose of the bills was to support Christians in their bigotry. They got a fright when they realized others could do to them what they want to do to others.

        • Andy Lowry
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          As an Arizonan, I offer a hurrah. Unfortunately, the legislature does other rather stupid things– like when they passed a bill that allows untrained teachers in schools. The governor signed it a couple of weeks ago. Yay us?

        • Posted May 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          Personally, I can see why a Catholic young single mother, giving her baby for adoption, wishes him to go to Catholic adoptive parents, and a Muslim one wishes him to be adopted by Muslims.

  3. Greg Geisler
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s appalling. I live in Austin (the only sane place in Texas) and it never ceases to amaze me of how tight a grip the Dominionists have on the legislature. HB3859 is just one more thinly-veiled attempt to push their extreme religious agenda and indoctrinate children.

    They make no bones about their faith-based agenda though—this is from the Texas Republican platform:

    “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

    It’s a constant battle here trying to prevent them from commandeering school boards and injecting their revisionist, creationist garbage into textbooks. You may have heard this one:
    Texas has rejected allowing university experts to fact-check its public-school textbooks in the wake of a 9th grade world geography book mistakenly calling African slaves “workers.”

    They would prefer that used car salesman vet the state’s textbooks over credentialed academics.

    And lest we forget (I haven’t): Van Orden v. Perry. “A Ten Commandments monument erected on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause, because the monument, when considered in context, conveyed a historic and social meaning rather than an intrusive religious endorsement.”

    Texas seems to do whatever it pleases. Sorry for the rant!

    • Randy schenck
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Amen to that. I spent roughly 11 years of my working career in Texas and I am glad not to live there any longer.

    • Historian
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      You are quite right. The Texas Republican Party is one of the most reactionary in the country, which is saying a lot for the Republican Party. For many years, certain Democratic strategists have been predicting on the basis of demographics that Texas is on the verge of turning purple, if not blue. Unfortunately, I think we have a long wait.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        I am afraid the republican party will have to nearly explode before Texas changes. And as in nearly every other state, it is only in the large metro where democrats are making any headway. Once you leave Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Huston you are in pure red territory. I lived in Waco for two years and there are very few democrats.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          Future hopes for TX hinge on raising the levels of Mexican-American voter registration to that of Anglos. The part of the state I like best personally is the People’s Republic of Austin. 🙂

          • Randy schenck
            Posted May 26, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            You can have the whole thing far as I am concerned. Dallas is two degrees hotter than hell in the summer and it is always hotter in Wichita Fall. Makes one really appreciate locations such as the bay area of California or Hawaii.

      • C.J.
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Since the election of DJT, I have given serious consideration to convincing some of my more adventurous liberal friends who, like me, are from solid blue states, to move to Austin, Dallas, etc. in hopes of turning Texas into a swing state. From what I read here, that doesn’t sound like such a good (or plausible) idea. But, what’s clear is that large, urban population centers are largely liberal, and as a particular state’s population rises, so too does its tendency to vote blue. I foresee this happening in Florida and possibly Texas within my lifetime, which gives me some hope.

        • Greg Geisler
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          Sadly, there are only a couple handfuls of counties in the state of Texas that are blue: https://www.texastribune.org/2016/11/09/see-which-counties-texas-trump-and-clinton-won/

          And Dallas and Houston are not exactly “liberal” or secular populations. So, I would not get my hopes up regarding a political sea change in Texas. As you can gather from the Texas Republican party platform, they like to keep the populace dumb and faithful. The Texas Senate also recently approved a bill eliminating straight-ticket voting. You can easily figure out why.

          You gotta hand it to them—they are honed in on whatever methods they can employ to subvert efforts to thwart their Dominionist agenda.

    • C.J.
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Unholy mackerel…”We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
      No words minced there. This statement has the same sound of arrogance heard when people say “that’s why is called Faith” (we don’t need facts). Or as Bill Maher says, Faith: “the purposeful suspension of critical thinking”.

      • Greg Geisler
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        “Parental authority” is the underpinnings of indoctrination. We can’t have these kids thinking for themselves, they might question the garbage their parents are feeding them. It smells like cultish mind control to me. Here’s hoping the FFRF decides to wade into the backwoods waters of Texas.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    From James Madison:

    “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

    — Memorial and Remonstrance


    • Randy schenck
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      And only the combined power of Madison and Jefferson prevailed in Virginia to establish religious freedom and freedom from religion. There is no such power today.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Something is constitutionally rotten in the state of the Lone Star.

  6. Doug Strand
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    This story hits home for me. My wife and I just finished licensing our home for foster care. As an atheist in Texas, I was appalled to learn that only 2 out of 20 adoption agencies that were available for us to choose from did not require a statement of faith. There are over 1600 homes needed for kids stuck in CPS right now. This is a betrayal to so-called Christian values. Humanists desperately need to step in to claim this moral vacuum.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      You might want to contact your local branch of the ACLU or FFRF.

    • Greg Geisler
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      Bravo, Doug, for fostering. Yes, you are challenged by the Texas system. Stand your ground. Where in TX are you?

      • Doug Strand
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink


  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    During the Obama presidency there was a lot of talk about seceding from the union in Texas. Cartoonists had a field day with that one. One name suggestion for the country of Texas I remember was Angrywhitemenistan.

    A lot of the laws the Dominionists want to establish in Texas have direct equivalents in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      I remember when all that secession talk was going on. American history or at least learning anything from it was never a strong issue in Texas.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Texas is the only state in the Union that was formerly an independent country (and Texans ain’t about to let anyone forget it). AFAIK, it’s also the only one in which state history is required coursework in the public schools.

      Remember the Alamo, or whatever.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        I bet they leave out that part where we started a war with Mexico to steal Texas from them. The history you would get in public school in Texas would be considered fiction in most circles.

      • Gabrielle
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Virginia requires a course they call ‘Virginia and US history’ for graduation from high school. I was surprised to learn this when I moved to the state. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and there was no such thing as an emphasis on Pennsylvania history.
        In the case of Virginia, I think these ‘history’ courses were (or are) a veiled way of studying/honoring the Confederacy.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          Pretty sure we had Iowa history but that was in 6th grade.

      • Posted May 29, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Wasn’t California sort of one too, and ditto Vermont?

    • Greg Geisler
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      “A lot of the laws the Dominionists want to establish in Texas have direct equivalents in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.”

      Precisely, Heather. It IS Sharia in that they desire their religious doctrine to shape law. Exactly what the Founding Fathers did not want.

      I’ve often joked that when the sh*t hits the fan that Austin will become a slave colony to the rest of the state.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha! But yeah, those Dominionists are really scary.

  8. Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Whether Jesus existed or not or taught the contradictory lessons the New Testament claims he taught, if he were able to return to Texas today, I think the Texans would kill him again for being too liberal and accepting of differences.

  9. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    “The same day, the Texas House of Representatives approved a limited “bathroom bill” that would require public high school students to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.”

    So, now they will have to produce their birth certificate when going to the john?


  10. nicky
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Texas is a bit like eg. North Korea or fundamentalist Islam: a small bump in ‘Pinker’s trend’.

    • nicky
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:52 pm | Permalink


  11. zoolady
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s appalling….but I’ve wondered MANY TIMES how it is that Texans are so hateful, primitive and hypocritical. This place was founded by bold, courageous people who pioneered with the American ”spirit” and who seem to take pride in their friendly nature.

    NOT SO, is it?

  12. jay
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to play a bit of devil’s advocate on this but there are questions to consider. I’m not totally comfortable with the ‘progressive’ ‘revealed truth’ position.

    At one time (I don’t know if still is), that as a rule of thumb, white children would not be placed with black parents and vice versa. The reason is NOT the fault of the parents, but the negative societal pressures on the child. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, there are substantial additional societal pressures on children placed with gay parents (indeed the suicide rate for gay people is substantially higher than the population as a whole). WHOSE benefit are we considering–the child… or the prospective parents? I vote with the child. (In the specific case where one gay parent is an actual parent of the child, that bond should be the determining factor).

    As far as following the religious belief of the potential parents, if something happened to us, would we not really want our children cared for by people we agree with? Would we not want our children to have access to secular minded, presumably non theistically oriented parents?

    On the other bill (I wish people would stop calling it a ‘bathroom’ bill, the bathroom issue is not the big problem). At one time there was an actual proceuder for getting you sex legally change, you wen to a judge, you changed your passport, driver license etc . It was a public legal process. I the current ‘whatever’ climate, it simply becomes a whim, whatever a person feels–that’s what they are.

    But getting back to the bigger problem: situations like showers and locker rooms. If some boy decides he’s a girl (this week anyhow) under the Obama administration, the schools are unable to do the sensible thing and provide a private dressing room, apparently because that would make this individual ‘feel’ different.

    No one, seems to give a damn about the privacy rights of ACTUAL girls, that some boy is running around the shower claiming to be a girl …. just as long as we don’t do anything that upset this boy’s delusion.

    The shark has been jumped.

  13. Zetopan
    Posted May 29, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I failed to pass this related little tidbit along, concerning the current head of the US Department of Education:

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