The Corner

Law & the Courts

Another Republican Governor Is Under Fire Over Religious Freedom

Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Fallin makes remarks before the opening of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, February 22, 2014. (Mike Theiler/Reuters)

Here we go again. A GOP legislature has passed a bill protecting the religious freedom and the rights of conscience of religious institutions, and activists are pressing the governor to veto — raising threats of corporate boycotts.

This time the state is Oklahoma, the governor is stalwart conservative Mary Fallin, and the issue is whether religious adoption agencies can be forced to place children in family arrangements that violate the agency’s “religious or moral convictions or policies.” In other words, if she signs the bill, then Oklahoma can’t force a Catholic or Protestant adoption agency to place adopted children with, say, single parents or same-sex families. It does not prohibit or interfere with the right of any other adoption agency to implement contrary policies. It does not ban same-sex adoption in the state. Here’s the key language of the statute:

To the extent allowed by federal law, no private childplacing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.

In the real world, this bill would have the effect of increasing child placement options in the state. Many religious adoption agencies would rather shut down than violate their religious purpose. The statute allows them to stay open, and it of course allows different agencies with different policies to place children in the homes of their choice. It’s a win/win . . . Unless, of course, you seek to use the power of the state to force religious organizations to join the sexual revolution. And that’s exactly what activists intend to do:

JoDee Winterhof of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC, a LGBT activist group)  slammed the bill. “Oklahoma’s legislators are throwing kids under the bus to create a ‘license to discriminate,’” he said. “This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care. It shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Oklahomans.”


The Human Rights Campaign claims SB 1140 “would allow child welfare organizations … to turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need.” The group defines “qualified Oklahomans” as the following: “LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”

No, the bill would allow religious child welfare organizations to continue to exist. In my career I’ve consulted with a number of religious foster and adoption agencies, and each of the leaders of those organizations have said they’d close before they’d violate their religious convictions. In fact, this is exactly what’s happened in multiple locations across the nation as the sexual revolution has grown increasingly intolerant of religious dissent.

It’s vitally important that Fallin sign this bill. Not only will it provide Oklahoma citizens with more options for foster care and adoption, resistance to corporate and activist bullying has consequences that will resonate far beyond Oklahoma. Each governor who capitulates grants the bullies greater power. Each governor who resists diminishes the threat. As red states one-by-one choose to protect religious freedom, corporations will face a real cost if they choose to prioritize extremist conceptions of “social justice” over genuine tolerance and genuine diversity. In short, the best way to end corporate boycotts is to resist corporate boycotts.

While an “anonymous source” has said that the governor’s staff is advising a veto, I’ll believe Governor Fallin will fold when I see it. She’s demonstrated political courage championing conservative criminal justice reform. She should show similar courage defending religious liberty. I hope and expect that she will.


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