In the past week, the Michigan House of Representatives has approved 4 different bills, each of which allows discrimination and refusal of service to anyone based on the religious beliefs of the one serving. Many believe that this is a veiled attempt to OK discrimination against the LGBT community. And it may well be. But these bills, if passed by the state senate, will be so much worse than that.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The most publicized of these bills is the “Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA). This bill dramatically shifts the balance between an individual’s religious freedoms and the state’s power to regulate. Here is the meat of the bill:
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), government not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.(2) Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in that particular instance is both of the following:(a) In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.(b) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
The Child Placement Agency Bills
The other 3 bills relate to adoption and child placement agencies. Michigan’s Department of Human Services does not place children or facilitate adoptions. Instead, those services are contracted out. Two of the largest services in the state are Catholic Family Services and Lutheran Adoption Services, both of which are run by conservative Christian organizations. In some counties there is no non-religious option for adoption services.
Under the new bills, these agencies will be allowed to refuse services that conflict with their written “statements of faith.” The state will not be allowed to take any adverse action against those agencies, including refusing to continue or initiate contracts to perform adoption and child placement services. In the current political climate this will most strongly affect gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt, but these state-funded Christian agencies could also refuse services to atheists, Muslims, Jews, or single parents with complete impunity.
Stop the Bills
There is still a chance to keep these blatantly unconstitutional bills from becoming law. But it will take everyday citizens like you contacting your state senators and telling them that these bills are bad for Michigan. Take the time to make a call or send an email. It could help thousands of boys and girls find forever homes with loving families.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a family lawyer with Schmidt Law Services. She handles adoptions and LGBT family issues. If you know someone with a unique family situation, have them contact Schmidt Law Services today for a consultation.