Photo Credit: Lina Kivaka
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee House of Representatives has advanced a bill that would protect the rights of faith-based state-contracted foster care and adoption agencies to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs.
House Bill 836, sponsored by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, passed 67-22 on April 1, and is now awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate, where its companion bill, Senate Bill 1304, is sponsored by Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon.
“To the extent allowed by federal law, no private licensed child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies,” the bill reads in part.
It also 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.”
Foster and adoption agencies also may not be sued for damages or injunctive relief because of their free exercise of religion.
According to reports, the bill is a preemptive measure that is modeled after a similar law in Virginia. Rudd said during House debate that in other states, faith-based organizations have “been sued to the point of driving them out of business” and the legislation is “just codifying what the Supreme Court has said.”
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