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Catholic bishops’ conference defends right to provide adoption services in Virginia


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Zelda Caldwell - published on 07/30/21

The bishops' policy group has come out against a proposal that would make it illegal for faith-based agencies to follow their moral convictions while making child placements.

A public policy group affiliated with the Catholic Church in Virginia is warning that a proposal by gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe would bar faith-based agencies from placing children into foster homes.

McAuliffe served as governor from 20014 to 2018, and is seeking to serve another term in office. He has pledged to repeal Virginia’s conscience clause, which protects child placement agencies from being forced to place children where it would violate the agency’s moral or religious convictions. 

The Virginia Catholic Conference, which promotes policy initiatives on behalf of the Virginia bishops, supports maintaining the current law.

Executive director Jeff Caruso told the Washington Free Beacon that the conscience clause, which has been state law since 2012, allows faith-based agencies to place children, but doesn’t prevent anyone from adopting or fostering a child through a non-faith-based agency.

“Virginia’s current law ensures that no child-placing agencies, including faith-based agencies, are forced to participate in child placements that violate their beliefs and moral convictions,” Caruso said. 

“Prohibiting faith-based organizations from following their convictions will harm families who want to work with agencies that share their beliefs. This law does not prevent anyone who wants to adopt a child or provide a foster home from doing so,” he said.

In February of 2021 the Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation to repeal the conscience clause. The bill was then referred to a Senate Committee but has not come up for a vote in that body.

The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia affirmed the right of Catholic Social Services (CSS) to place children in foster families. In that case, the city of Philadelphia had refused to refer children to the CSS because the agency would not allow same-sex couples to be foster parents. The Supreme Court ruled that the city of Philadelphia had violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

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