Michigan legislators seek to keep children first in adoption, foster care

ADF files friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of state lawmakers in support of Public Act 53
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Attorney sound bite:  Jonathan Scruggs

DETROIT – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday in federal court on behalf of Michigan legislators who strongly support a state law that helps connect more children with loving families by creating a friendly environment for adoption agencies. The law is the target of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit demanding that faith-based agencies give up their beliefs or close their doors, making it harder for thousands of foster kids to find permanent homes.

“Because children thrive better when part of a family, our laws should encourage and protect a variety of adoption agencies. This includes faith-based agencies, which demonstrate great effectiveness at recruiting, training, and retaining families to foster and adopt children,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “Michigan’s law allows these agencies to operate according to their beliefs—just like any other adoption service—without fear of government punishment and without denying anyone access to placement services.”

“Demanding that faith-based adoption agencies act contrary to the very faith that motivates their concern for children and families makes no sense,” added ADF Senior Counsel Matt Sharp. “At a time when we are seeing rising numbers of children in foster care, we shouldn’t be driving these highly effective adoption agencies out of business. That hurts kids and deprives them of families.”

Recognizing the success that religious adoption agencies have had in finding permanent homes for thousands of children for decades, Michigan decided in 2015 that its partnership with faith-based adoption agencies should be written permanently into law. Three bills—now Public Act 53—preserve and protect an innovative partnership with non-profit organizations like Bethany Christian Services and Michigan Catholic Charities. Because of this successful public-private partnership, Michigan has earned an 80 percent adoption-placement rate and recognition as a national adoption policy leader.

Public Act 53 prohibits the state and local agencies from forcing an adoption agency to provide services that “conflict with the agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs” contained in a written policy, statement of faith, or other similar document. It prevents the types of closures of faith-based agencies that occurred in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and Illinois after government officials demanded that the agencies violate their beliefs if they wish to continue to help children find loving families.

Filed by ADF attorneys on behalf of Michigan legislators, some of whom were sponsors of the bills included in Public Act 53, the brief argues that a decision against the state would likely force agencies like Bethany and Catholic Charites to close their adoption services. As the brief notes, together these two agencies facilitate 25 to 30 percent of Michigan’s foster care adoptions.

“This issue is close to my heart,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, who signed on to the brief. “I come from a family comprised of four children adopted by my parents. Faith-based adoption had a tremendous role in making my life possible. Support of faith-based adoption agencies does not diminish the role of all other private agencies in Michigan. The variety of organizations willing to place children with loving families benefits all children in need of a home. I hope the court will give careful consideration to our argument in favor of the law and make the best decision for the adoption and foster care community in Michigan.”

Timothy Denney of Rickard, Denney, Garno & Leichliter is among the more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF and serves as co-counsel for the Michigan legislators opposing the lawsuit, Dumont v. Lyon, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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