Rep. Kelly & Sen. Enzi Call on Trump Administration to Defend Faith-based Adoption & Foster Care Services from Discrimination

May 23, 2018

Send letter to White House signed by 80 members of Congress to ensure children can continue to get care from people of faith

WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) sent a joint letter with 78 other members of the House and Senate today urging President Donald J. Trump to protect faith-based organizations that provide child welfare services from losing federal funding because of their religious faith.

While faith-based agencies play an important role in finding safe and loving homes for some of the more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, many of these agencies are now facing mounting threats to their ability to continue doing their critical work because of their religious beliefs. In areas such as Boston, the District of Columbia and Illinois, agencies have already been forced to close their doors.

In their letter, members of Congress called on the Trump Administration to enforce the existing laws and protections that make it illegal for states to withhold this funding based on the organization’s moral objections. They also urged the Department of Health and Human Services to review old and consider issuing new regulations that ensure government entities are providing access to foster care and adoption contracts on an equal basis with other providers — and in a way that accounts for and protects the unique religious identity, beliefs and practices of faith-based agencies.

“We cannot allow history to repeat itself and shut out faith-based agencies doing crucial and quality work,” the members wrote. “Too much is at stake to place politics above the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable children. Members of Congress are working to develop legislative solutions. But this issue is so important that all branches of government must take responsible action.”

According to the members of Congress, taking action to protect these faith-based agencies would be firmly in line with President Trump’s recent executive order on “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” It is also supported by the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, which affirmed that the denial of a public benefit solely on the basis of an organization’s religious nature violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise.

* * * The full letter can be viewed here.

Co-signers of the letter in the Senate include: Senators Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni K. Ernst, R-Iowa, James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., James Lankford, R-Okla., Michael S. Lee, R-Utah, James E. Risch, R-Idaho, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Roger F. Wicker, R-Miss. 

Co-signers of the letter in the House include: Representatives George Holding, R-N.C., Jason Smith, R-Mo., Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., James B. Renacci, R-Ohio, Diane Black, R-Tenn., Mike Bishop, R-Mich., Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, Darin LaHood, R-Ill., Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., Pete Olson, R-Texas, Randy K. Weber Sr., R-Texas, Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Steve King, R-Mo., Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-Pa., Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., Mark Walker, R-N.C., Steve Russell, R-Okla., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Clay Higgins, R-La., David P. Roe, M.D., R-Tenn., Rick W. Allen, R-Ga., Ron Estes, R-Kan., Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., Michael C. Burgess, M.D., R-Texas, Tom Graves, R-Ga., Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa., Brian Babin, R-Texas, Brad R. Wenstrup, R-Ohio, Gary J. Palmer, R-Ala., Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Mark E. Amodei, R-Nev., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Steve Pearce, R-N.M., Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., Richard Hudson, R-N.C., Jim Banks, R-Ind., Keith J. Rothfus, R-Pa., Roger W. Marshall, R-Kan., Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, Robert J. Wittman, R-Va. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., Todd Rokita, R-Ind., Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., Robert E. Latta, R-Ohio, Neal P. Dunn, R-Fla., Luke Messer, R-Ind., John H. Rutherford, R-Fla., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Andy Harris, R-Md., Jody B. Hice, R-Ga., Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., Alexander X. Mooney, R-W.Va., Tim Walberg, R-Mich., Mia Love, R-Utah and Chris Stewart, R-Utah.

BACKGROUND: Rep. Kelly and Sen. Enzi are the lead sponsors of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (also known as "the Inclusion Act"), which would protect faith-based child welfare service providers from unfair government discrimination.