If you think the LGBTQ mafia isn’t out to destroy your family because of your faith, guess again. Jessica Bates, a Christian woman and mother of five, has filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) after being denied the opportunity to adopt a child due to her religious beliefs about human sexuality. The case raises questions about the constitutionality of the state’s adoption policies and the rights of prospective parents with religious beliefs.
Bates desires to adopt a sibling pair younger than nine years old from Oregon’s foster-care system. She feels called to open her home to children in need, inspired by the biblical command “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Her faith has anchored her through the grieving process after losing her husband in a car crash, and she continues to find strength and take refuge in God.
However, the DHS has promulgated a rule that requires adoption applicants to “accept” and “support” the sexual orientation and gender identity of any child the state could place in the applicant’s home. Bates cannot affirm that a male is or should try to be female or vice versa due to her Christian faith. Therefore, the DHS rejected her application for not meeting its “adoption home standards.”
According to Bates’ complaint, Oregon’s policy violates the Constitution by penalizing her for her religious views, compelling her to speak words that violate her beliefs, and depriving her of equal protection while accomplishing nothing for Oregon’s children. The complaint also alleges that the policy hurts children by denying them the opportunity to be placed in loving homes.
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Oregon’s foster-care system had nearly 8,000 children who spent at least one day in the system in the year ending October 1, 2022. When reunification with the family is not possible, a “primary goal of federal and state governments is to establish permanency for a child as soon as possible.” However, the longer a child resides in foster care, the more “placement stability declines.” Children who remain in foster care longer than 12 months are more likely to be uprooted.
Bates’ case is being represented by counsel Rebekah Schultheiss (Millard), who argues that the DHS policy amounts to an ideological litmus test. Those with “correct” views on sexual ethics may adopt, while those with religious views may not. The policy, she argues, is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.
“The State of Oregon cannot impose its own orthodoxy on people of faith and punish them if they dissent,” Schultheiss said in a statement. “Jessica Bates is one of countless Oregonians who want to care for children in need, but the State is excluding her because of her religious beliefs. That’s not just wrong – it’s unconstitutional.”
Oregon is not the only state to have adoption policies that clash with the religious beliefs of some prospective parents. In 2018, a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia sued the city after being denied a contract to provide foster care services because of its refusal to place children with same-sex couples. The case is still ongoing.
Bates’ case has also drawn attention to the broader issue of religious liberty in the United States. Supporters of Bates argue that religious beliefs should not be a barrier to adopting a child, while critics say that allowing prospective parents to reject certain aspects of a child’s identity would harm the child’s well-being.
The case is now before the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Pendleton Division. Bates is seeking a declaratory judgment that Oregon’s policy is unconstitutional, injunctive relief prohibiting the enforcement of Oregon’s policy, and attorney’s fees and costs. The outcome of the case could have far-reaching implications for adoption policies in Oregon and other states across the country.