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Adoption, Politics, Funding, Oh My! My Response to Rob T

(For the comment thread that led to this post, please refer to this previous post.)

My response to both questions remains the same. Again, I must stress that I am no expert on adoption. 

There are a wide variety of adoption agencies. Jewish adoption agencies cater to Jewish families and operate in a manner that respects their own particular belief system (that of the biological as well as adoptive family). Based on the conditions posed in your question, we can assume that all adoption agencies are funded by all taxpayers (regardless of religion, ethnicity, etc). With that said, regardless of the taxpayers' religion, ethnicity, etc. some portion of money will go to an agency that does not operate in a manner that is 100% in agreement with that individual's particular belief system. This goes for Jewish taxpayers, Christian taxpayers, etc.  

If an individual is not particularly happy with the manner in which an agency works, the current model (with various forms of adoption agencies catering to various belief systems, etc) allows for an individual to simply choose another agency that best suits their belief system. The individual is free to adopt from a non-Christian adoption agency that is also supported by taxpayer money. 

As it stands, regardless of the system used by an adoption agency…ANY adoption agency is doing the country a service by finding families for children who cannot be supported by their biological family. Closing an adoption agency by freezing funds or by forced closure, in my opinion, does more evil to a society as a whole.  It is far easier to support a system that allows an individual to choose between adoption agencies than it is to (directly or indirectly) close many adoption agencies and redistribute the children brought to these agencies. My feelings are that, if you don’t like a particular adoption agency…use another one. If there are plenty of other families that have no problem using this adoption agency…why close it? There are enough children out there in need of a good home and a family…why would we want to add more strain to an already strained system? 

If you’re looking at it solely from a financial standpoint, removing Christian adoption agencies (or Jewish, Muslim, etc agencies) due to their particular belief system ultimately costs the taxpayer more money. Closing it would only put more strain on 100% state-run adoption agencies or other agencies that are deemed appropriate by a particular group. As I mentioned before, adopting the “do what we want or we close you down” system only creates more mess and red tape  when it comes to redistributing children in need of adoption.

If you feel that I have not answered your question with my reply, I am afraid you will need to rephrase your original question.

As it stands, I feel that your question is not so much about public policy as it is about the term “discrimination”  and your views as to what discrimination means and whether you feel it is being practiced by a particular group (in this case, Christian adoption agencies).  Both of your questions, as phrased, ask me for my opinion as to whether or not I think the manner in which a Christian adoption agency operates is discriminating against a particular group (in this case, Jewish people).

I think I answered this question as well. As the current model stands, biological parents are given the freedom to choose an adoption agency that respects their own belief system and will allow for their children to be adopted into a family that shares a belief system. This, believe it or not, may make it easier on a parent that is struggling with the idea of adoption. Adoption is, by no means, an easy decision. The current model, however, allows biological parents some choice when it comes to passing down something to their children that is not biological. It allows parents to give their children a part of the childhood that they experienced. A Jewish mother may find some solace in knowing that her son will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah when he reaches a certain age. A Christian mother may find solace in knowing that her child was baptized. A Muslim mother may find solace in knowing that her child will one day read the same passages in the Quran that she reads. Faith is something that people feel really strongly about. I may be Catholic, but I understand how different religions are important to different people. Why deny these biological parents the chance to ensure that their child is, at least, exposed to the same faith as they were?

This brings me to another point, religion is not something that is simply “passed down.” Regardless of an adoption agency’s practices and regardless of the adoptive family’s faith…the child will ultimately come to a point where faith becomes something that comes from within (or from above)…and not so much environmental. As a cradle Catholic, my faith was shaped by far more than my parents’ faith and a few years of CCD/RCIA. It was shaped by my thought, the books I sought, the experiences I had, etc. I know at least one person who even went to Catholic school and turned out to be an atheist. I know of another person who was a very faithful Buddhist that never once believed they would be a Christian...and ended up converting to Christianity. What we are born into does not always define who we become. If that was the case, I'd be a lot better at sewing and playing cards.

With all this said, I do see where Gingrich is coming from. I am of the opinion that adoption agencies (regardless of faith) are not acting in a discriminatory fashion...but simply adhering to a belief system that respects those of the biological parent and adoptive parents that choose to use the service. Likewise, considering how many different types of private, taxpayer-funded, etc. adoption agencies there are out there…I cannot help but stress that the system (as a whole) is not operated in a discriminatory fashion. I, for one, know my tax dollars are funding some things that I wholeheartedly oppose (such as abortion)...but I am also fund things that I support 100% (conservation efforts and education). I have no choice but to pay my dues and hope that my money ends up doing more good than harm....

I am still hoping for the day where I get a government-issued
scantron in the mail  that  allows me to pick and choose
what things my tax dollars will  fund... wishful thinking....
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the argument from the other end as well…but I cannot help but feel that closing down certain agencies or turning all agencies into public-run institutions (with the same regulations and ideologies across the board) will do far more harm than good.  We saw something similar in Francisco Franco’s regime in Spain some decades ago. During this period of time, the state decided what ideologies were acceptable and which ones were not acceptable when it came to raising children and/or adopting children. What resulted from the state’s idea of “right and wrong” resulted in the theft and relocation of babies from parents with “unacceptable” beliefs or ideas to parents that were deemed “acceptable” by the state. I would never want to see something like this in the United States or elsewhere. We may think we are doing a great good by ensuring that ALL institutions (adoption agencies or otherwise) uphold one set of ideals that are “correct.” However, I feel that doing so would remove far more freedoms than it would create….and be a lot more unfair (and expensive) to tax-payers and adoption system as a whole.

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Vobiscum


  1. I'm afraid I'm still not sure of your answer. I wasn't talking about forcibly closing down any agencies. I was asking about whether agencies that receive taxpayer money should be able to be exempt from discrimination law.

    I'm interpreting your answer to mean that a Christian adoption agency that refuses to place children with Jewish parents should (in your opinion, as a matter of the public policy you would prefer) still be eligible for government funding.

    If I'm wrong, please let me know.

  2. Let me explain why I’ve been asking.

    In Massachusetts, an adoption agency (whether publicly funded or not) won’t be allowed to operate if it discriminates on the basis of religion. For instance, LDS had to suspend adoption services in that state because it wanted to place kids only with Mormon families. This would seem to represent the same sort of violation of religious freedom that Newt Gingrich talks about when he talks of Christian agencies being required to place kids with same-sex parents if they wish to keep operating.

    Yet Newt didn’t complain about this long-standing assault on religious freedom when it Christian agencies were banned from discriminating against, say, Jews. He only started complaining when the issue became about gays.

    This leads, not unreasonably, to the suspicion that his issue is not about religious freedom at all, but only about his aversion to homosexuality. So if someone tells me, “Christian adoption agencies should be able to refuse to place kids with gays, but of course they shouldn’t be able to discriminate against Jews!” then I suspect the issue is not at all about their commitment to the religious freedom of the agencies.

    Now, personally, I believe private adoption agencies should be able to discriminate against whomever they want, based on whatever criteria they desire. Once public funding comes into play, however, the rules change.

    In Massachusetts, though, the public funding isn’t even the issue. As I said above, not even private agencies are able to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

    Now, as it turns out, you do believe these agencies should have the ability to discriminate, even if they receive no government funding.

    So the question I ask you and Newt (and probably should have asked to begin with): If your core concern is religious freedom, why did you only begin vocal opposition to these restrictions on adoption agencies when same-sex couples came into the picture –- and why is your vocal opposition focused so strongly on the same-sex issue, rather than the fact that it’s long been illegal for an agency to refuse to place kids with, say, Jews?

  3. By the way, thanks for your response. I appreciate the time you put into addressing my question seriously.

  4. I understand a little more now. Sorry, you've caught me in a "once bitten twice shy" period following a recent and pretty nasty troll on my blog.

    I see where you're coming from now that you've brought a little bit more history into the picture. I think it's a little more Newt than me when it comes to vocally opposing restrictions on adoption agencies only relatively recently. The problem is that this blog is relatively young (less than a year) and I haven't really touched on too many hot topics or the political scene yet.

    As it stands, yes I do feel that these agencies should be allowed to run their adoption processes as they see fit. This even goes for agencies that do receive some public funding. As long as children aren't abused or falling through the cracks, I say let the adoption agencies continue to operate. Ultimately, as a tax payer, I would rather see my tax money going to the LDS adoption agency you mentioned even though I am, by no means, a Mormon. ...than see children moving from home to home in foster care...or falling through the cracks. I don't really see it as much of an issue of discrimination as I see it as a potential risk to child welfare, personal freedoms, and adding even more federal red tape to something that is already helping children. Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your honesty and apologize if I came across as a bit snappy at first.

  5. No worries. I tangled with that same fellow as well, and it's a nasty mess.

    Thanks again for your reply. I disagree with your views on the implications of accepting state funds, but I appreciate that you apply your these principles to society in general, rather than as a club to beat on segment of the population.

  6. First of all, I would like to state that I am really not informed on any adoption system (currently in practice or proposed) other than what I've read on these two posts. However, I agree very strongly with what the Catholic Science Geek has written, and I would like to contribute a couple of my own perspectives to this issue.

    As to the question of the failure on the part of certain adoption agencies to accommodate certain members of other faiths, without any specific documented examples I can't deem that discrimination has NOT occurred. There may be, and probably are, real cases of discrimination. However, my gut tells me that the majority of what's going on is not discrimination but rather specialization. Nobody can do everything--in practice, it is simply not possible to do everything. In the same way, different agencies, churches, and even schools have developed their own unique combination of programs to suit the needs of their communities. I hate to drag an economic term into a discussion of religions, but this is an example of free enterprise. Let me make an analogy.

    The Foodtown in my town has a modest variety of some delightful teas. However, the ShopRite around the corner has almost three times as many teas as Foodtown. The teas at both stores are almost exclusively the kind that comes in tea bag form. However, if I choose to drive to the Wegman's an hour away from my house, I can get some even more delightful, higher quality teas of the loose kind that gets put in strainers. This is not discrimination but rather a result of supply and demand and the relative ability or disability of the respective supermarkets to find the products best suited to the customers in their area. Let me draw another analogy.

    I love Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, and JRR Tolkien, so let's say I want to get a doctorate in English. Most universities in the United States offer a doctorate in English, so it should be relatively easy to find a doctoral program that works for me, right? Wrong! No two doctoral programs are the same, even by a long shot. Why? Because of differences in the faculty members teaching and advising the students. Faculty members at one school have specialized in 19th and 20th Century literature; faculty at another institution have specialized in Old and Middle English; while faculty at yet a third school will have specialized in the Elizabethan period; and faculty at yet another school will have specialized in the science fiction genre; and faculty at only the cream of the universities may have truly specialized in all or most of the major authors, periods, genres, and more. Specialization, and the diversity that it fosters, is truly a fact of life. In a country of 300 million that fosters and protects freedom of religion or irreligion, diversity simply cannot be erased, so it must be embraced. It is simply a fact that no college or agency can please everybody, so they specialize in an area of their choice. They all offer a set of opportunities, though different opportunities. Hopefully, they do not discriminate.

    Is it discrimination for one doctoral program to specialize in Shakespeare but not science fiction? No. Is it discrimination for one agency to specialize in finding Christian homes for babies? I hope not. Is it discrimination for parents putting their babies up for adoption to want their children to be brought up in one faith but not another? I hope not, either. What we're looking at is not so much an effect of discrimination but rather a side effect of that First Amendment that says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

  7. In this respect, freedom of religion can broadly be compared to free enterprise: we have the right and the privilege to shop (or not shop) where we want in the same way that we have the right and the privilege to worship (or not worship) where we want. We also, as the system stands, have the right to let our children be adopted (or not adopted) by people of a faith or denomination of our choosing. If a certain adoption agency cannot accommodate us, we have to realize that not every place can accommodate what we are looking for. So we have the privilege to take our business elsewhere. If this is a problem, I think I have an easier and a better solution to the problem.

    Do you remember Miracle on 34th Street? Rather than convince a mother to buy a toy that her child doesn't want, the Santa Claus working at Macy's tells her, "We don't have the toy you're looking for here at Macy's. However, they do have it at Gimball's just around the corner." Not only did he help the mother find what she wanted for her child for Christmas, but he also won for Macy's the woman's respect and future patronage. If there is a gap or discrimination in the current adoption system, this gap can be filled in if the adoption agencies get a list of ALL the local adoption agencies of ALL faiths and denominations and help parents find the agency of the background of their choosing. Furthermore, agencies of different faiths can and should work together in this way to help each other and their clients. This practice can foster greater cooperation between communities. They don't have to change their specializations but do get an opportunity to come a little closer to the "Brotherhood of Man" expressed in so many religions. Greater cooperation can also foster a greater sense of community: how can I discriminate against a different background if I have friends and people I work with every day from that background?

    I truly believe that if the current system is flawed, it has only a number small flaws that could be tweaked and remedied with benefits to all. I do not think that closing down an organization that helps find parents for children who need them is a viable solution. I think that if the federal government shuts down an adoption agency because of it's religious association, this is it a good thing but is rather an interference of government into religion and therefore violates one of our country's most sacred laws, the First Amendment. I am truly grateful to live in a country that fosters freedom of religion and freedom of thought, and I don't want to see those freedoms violated, infringed or in any way diminished. I truly believe that there is a solution to this problem which is mutually beneficial to all parties: to adoptive and biological parents, to children, to adoption agencies, to church, and to state. If there is a way to accommodate all the parties, we should take it. We should work together.

  8. PS. I wrote this reply last night before reading Rob T.'s reply, so I want to append here: I wholeheartedly agree: civil liberties apply to all groups, and not only one. People of qualified abilities (i.e. people who can give children safe and loving homes) should be allowed to adopt children, regardless of their own race, creed, color, sexual orientation, ethnic background, disability, or what have you. As long as a person or couple is capable of providing a child with a loving home and food and shelter, they should be permitted to adopt. If a group is currently underrepresented, then I think the best solution would be to create an adoption agency to focus on helping that specific community. And all agencies should then be required to work together to refer prospective biological and adoptive parents to the adoption agency of their choice. Rather than removing any agency, I think the best solution would be to create a new one, or as many new ones as necessary. The only government interference would be the requirement of cooperation, which should definitely be drafted in such as way as to promote equality and consideration for all but definitely not "separate but equal." If the issue is gay rights or black rights or Asian rights or Indian rights or atheist rights or anyone else's rights, then we should create a space within our community (and not outside the community) where everyone can have an equal opportunity--the same rights for everyone, without taking away from anyone else's. The answer is not to shut down organizations or ban them from operating. The answer is cooperation, even if it has to be mandated. That is the ONLY entry of state into church affairs that I advocate. We cannot forget that the general message of both the First Amendment and of most of the world's major religions is to coexist with other people. If government forgets, it is the responsibility of religion to remind it, and vice versa. Coexistence is possible, and symbiosis is what we should strive for. Discriminating against anyone's rights, on anyone's part, is not in line with those ideals.

  9. Rob T, thank you again for your sincerity. I truly am sorry for the tone of my initial response...and so sorry you had to deal with that same troll. I will respect your right to disagree when it comes to federal funding and agree to disagree.

    Rob O, thank you for your input. Your argument for specialization vs discrimination was written far better than my own...and I especially loved the tea and Tolkien references. We should do tea sometime. Whole leaf, bagged, or otherwise.

  10. No apologies necessary. In fact, I ought to apologize some myself. My original post has all the hallmarks of a "gotcha" question, and based on what I've seen of your blog, you deserve better than that, which is why I followed up with something more up-front and substantive. I'll be coming back to your blog again for fresh perspectives (and if you have any desire to see mine, it's at -- and feel free to delete this parenthetical; it's not my intent to shill my blog to your readers).