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TN Gov. to Sign Bill Protecting Funding of Faith-based Adoption Agencies

01-15-2020
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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that he will sign a bill that protects funding of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies. 

The bill would ensure that licensed adoption agencies cannot be forced to make placement decisions that "violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies."

It also forbids the state from denying an agency's license or grant application because of the group's refusal to place a child with a family based on religious objections The Tennessean reports.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill 20-6, after the state House of Representatives passed it last April. 

The state "needs all-hands-on-deck when it comes to providing loving homes for children in need," Republican bill sponsor Sen. Paul Rose said.

"SB 1304 simply makes sure that these agencies can continue to do this vital work just as they do today, consistent with their religious convictions. Tennessee should welcome everyone who is dedicated to helping vulnerable children, including the many faith-based agencies that play such a crucial role in serving our most vulnerable children."

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said the bill supports children in need and allows religious organizations to pursue their purpose.

Daniel Darling, ERLC's vice president for communications, said, "Tennessee has a long tradition of protecting religious freedom and advancing conscience protection rights, and that's the case here. We support this bill because it ensures that no one is kept from helping children in need while ensuring nothing prevents religious organizations from doing their work consistent with their convictions."

The LGBTQ advocacy group, Tennessee Equality Project, opposes the bill, claiming it will lead to discrimination against same-sex couples who are turned away by religious agencies.

Chris Sanders, the group's executive director said, "If this bill passes, it will send a clear signal across the country that Tennessee is not welcoming to diverse communities and not open for business, all while accomplishing nothing to help children find a home."

State Sen. Steve Dickerson was the only Republican to join the Senate's five Democrats in opposing the bill. "I expect that waiting list to increase somewhat," he said.

Gov. Lee's communication director, Chris Walker, said in a statement that the governor will sign the bill. 

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