The state of Oregon refused to allow a Christian mother of five to adopt two children after she said her religion would not let her take a young minor to receive cross-hormone injections—a policy that could prevent up to 78% of Americans from adopting children. Requiring adoptive parents to facilitate transgender procedures acts as a form of religious discrimination against many world religions, her attorneys say.
Jessica Bates has sued five Oregon state employees for adoption guidelines that effectively say, “Conservative Christians need not apply,” according to her legal brief. Oregon state law requires all would-be adoptive parents to “respect, accept and support” the adoptee’s professed “sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression.” Bates said mandatory classes in the state’s adoption application process said this included using a child’s preferred pronouns, presenting same-sex relationships in a positive light, and taking children who identify as LGBT to transgender procedures.
“Oregon’s Department of Human Services apparently places an implacable commitment to gender ideology above the needs of the thousands of children in its care,” Quena González, senior director of Government Affairs at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.
Bates, whose late husband perished in a car accident in 2017, is a mom of five children between the ages of 10 and 17. She feels inspired to adopt children based on the Bible’s commandment “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27); she also volunteers twice a week at a pro-life pregnancy resource center. She would like to adopt two siblings who are younger than nine years old.
When she first made her desires known to the state foster care system, officials at Oregon’s Department of Human Services assisted her in the application process. But then she entered state-mandated instructions for all those seeking to care for children in the foster care system.
When Bates enrolled in the Resource and Adoptive Family (RAFT) program, she says a RAFT instructor told her good parenting required “allowing a child to dress however they want and taking them to a Pride parade.”
“Respecting [a child’s] gender identity and expression is very important,” a RAFT handout said. Prospective adoptees must “always ask someone for their pronouns,” because there “are an infinite number of pronouns as new ones emerge in our language.”
Parents should avoid “forcing youth to attend activities (including religious activities …) that are … unsupportive of people with diverse SOGIE [sexual orientation, gender identity and expression],” it said. Bates and other participants must instead “[p]rovide access to a variety of books, movies, and materials, including those that positively represent same-gender relationships.”
“Display rainbow flags and other messages and images,” demands another handout described in Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) legal brief.
Bates expressed concern that Oregon state guidelines could prevent her from taking all her children to a church that upholds traditional beliefs on gender or teaching them Bible lessons that may contain verses that contradict “state orthodoxy.”
“It’s telling that Oregon would prefer to keep over 5,000 children in foster care every day than certify an otherwise well-qualified home that not only desires to serve such children but is open to sibling groups and older children,” said González, especially as homes willing to adopt older children and to keep siblings together are “usually in short supply and high demand.”
Bates made clear that she would show love to any child and tolerance toward children who identify as LGBT, but she couldn’t participate in interventions that permanently alter their bodies—a concern she thought would affect very few children in the state system.
“I don’t know how many children there are out there under the age of 9 who fall into this category (and to me it’s kind of crazy that society is wanting to get kids thinking about this stuff at such young ages; I think we should let them keep their innocence), so this may not even be an issue,” Bates emailed Cecilia Garcia, the worker assigned to guide her application, on Aug. 9.
“I have no problem loving them and accepting them as they are, but I would not encourage them in this behavior,” she added. “I believe God gives us our gender/sex, and it’s not something we get to choose.”
On Sept. 22, Garcia informed Bates that state officials denied her application based on her refusal to affirm a child’s hypothetical decision to identify as a member of the opposite sex. Garcia proceeded to ask Bates what she would do if the state assigned her a child under the age of nine who asked for cross-sex hormone shots. Bates said administering medically unnecessary and experimental shots to a child at such a tender age would amount to child abuse.
“Because I wouldn’t take a child for cross-sex hormone injections, I was basically told that I’m ineligible to adopt in the state of Oregon,” Bates said. State officials told Bates she did not “meet the adoption home standards” due to her belief in biological sex, her attorney said.
“Oregon’s policy amounts to an ideological litmus test,” said Jonathan Scruggs of ADF, which represents Bates in the court case, Bates v. Pakseresht. “People who hold secular or ‘progressive’ views on sexual orientation and gender identity are eligible to participate in child welfare programs, while people of faith with religiously informed views are disqualified because they don’t agree with the state’s orthodoxy.”
The policy potentially excludes faithful adherents of most major world religions and most Americans generally, experts say. “This isn’t just about excluding Christians: The state is effectively telling the growing majority of people that believe that sex is determinable by time of birth they need not apply to foster and adopt kids,” González said. “It’s not enough to be neutral on the issue; prospective foster and adoptive parents must support the state’s radical gender ideology.”
Excluding Christians from adopting children because of their faith- and science-based views contradicts previous public positions taken by LGBTQ activists, who frequently reproached Christian adoption centers for refusing to allow same-sex couples from adopting children. In a 2011 statement, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ pressure group, noted the number of children in the “foster care system waiting to be adopted into a loving forever home. Barring discrimination could open hundreds of loving homes” to them, HRC said. “We need to open the doors for every qualified family to pursue adoption—that is the role of child welfare professionals,” agreed Joe Kroll, an official in the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), endorsing LGBT adoption.
At least 200 of the 8,000 children in the state are awaiting adoption at any given time, according to the ODHS website on adoption. Neither HRC nor the NACAC appear to have weighed in on Bates’ behalf as of this writing.
Supporters wish Bates success in taking on the state agency. “I hope Jessica Bates owns the [ODHS] after this,” tweeted the Washington County, Oregon Republican Party.
Americans of all backgrounds “should be outraged that a prospective adoptive mom who is otherwise qualified has to go to federal court to adopt kids who need a loving home,” González told TWS.
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