TAKE ACTION: Keep Discrimination Out of Child Protective Services

On Wednesday, the Texas House is debating bills — HB 4 and HB 5 — seeking to overhaul the state’s Child Protective Services. We understand there may be an effort to amend the bills to allow child welfare providers contracting with the state to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT families wishing to adopt or offer a foster home to a child in need.

Please call your state Representative (in reference to HB 4 and HB 5) and tell them to vote AGAINST any amendments promoting “liability protection” that permit discrimination against LGBT Texans.

  • Keep language permitting discrimination out of these critical child welfare bills
  • Agencies that receive taxpayer dollars should not be able to refuse to serve LGBT families that want to help children
  • Allowing a state contractor to discriminate based on religious beliefs puts the interest of the contractor above the interests of the child

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Additional Background – Letter from TFN to House & Senate members

It has come to our attention that there is an effort to amend legislation pertaining to CPS reform with language that would have the effect of permitting discrimination against LGBT individuals in the state’s child welfare system.

First, I want to be clear that we consider any such effort – whether framed as “religious freedom” or “liability protection” – discrimination, and we vehemently oppose its inclusion in any child welfare legislation or regulations.

We oppose this effort for two primary reasons:

First, it would prioritize the interests of a state-contractor or government actor over the best interests of the child in welfare decisions. Specifically, broad religious exemptions would make the religious beliefs of providers the principal concern in decision-making. In a situation in which the welfare of a child conflicts with the religious dogma of an institution, broad exemptions could force the state to allow the provider’s interests to trump the child’s interests. That could jeopardize the health and well-being of children in our system.

Second, it is clear that the primary purpose of this effort is to permit individuals and organizations to use their religious beliefs to legally justify discrimination against LGBT children and families. This is morally wrong and legally problematic. Child welfare agencies that receive taxpayer dollars should not be able to discriminate against legally married couples that want to help children.

But even if LGBT families are the primary target of this effort, they are not the only people who could face discrimination. Broad religious exemptions could allow government contractors or child welfare services providers to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples, as well as people of different religious faiths or denominations.

Finally, I would like to remind the legislature that Texas has a tragic history of partnering with child welfare organizations that use religious doctrine to mask child abuse and proselytizing. Some of you might remember the sad story of The Roloff Homes, a faith-based provider for troubled teens run by fundamentalist preacher Lester Roloff. The Roloff Homes operated in Texas for many years and had a string of abuse and physical neglect allegations stretching back decades. Ultimately, Texas had to take aggressive action to remove them from the Texas child welfare system.

The inclusion of discriminatory language in any bills is opposed by a wide array of organizations both inside and outside of the child welfare system, and it does not align with best practices and child centered care. Further, it would bring swift backlash from individuals and organizations across the country. We urge you to keep language permitting discrimination out of any child welfare bills.