Bend the Arc Jewish Action invites Oklahoma-based faith leaders AND national faith organizations to sign the letter below. --------------
May 7, 2018
Dear Governor Fallin:
We, the undersigned faith leaders and organizations, write with great concern about Senate Bill 1140 as passed by the State Legislature on May 3, 2018. We write to ask that you veto SB 1140.
If signed, SB 1140 would permit child welfare agencies that receive taxpayer dollars and participate in government-supported child welfare services to discriminate against children and prospective parents. As such, the bill would allow these agencies to ignore the best interests of the children they agree to serve. We oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize discrimination and reject the idea that government-funded child welfare agencies should enjoy a blanket exemption from professional standards and practices that emphasize that every placement must, first and foremost, be made with the best interest of the child in mind.
Permitting taxpayer dollars to subsidize discriminatory practices such as this will hurt children in need of loving and supportive homes. There are more than 10,000 children in the Oklahoma foster care system, approximately 4,300 of whom are eligible for adoption. In 2016, almost 300 Oklahoma youth “aged out” of the foster care system, leaving them at a higher risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood than youth adopted while in foster care. This bill will make it harder for the children of the Oklahoma foster care system to find their forever home.
As people of faith and faith-based organizations, we celebrate the important work of so many faith-based child welfare agencies that support foster youth. We are also deeply committed to religious freedom, but that freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others or to put children in harm’s way. To argue that religious freedom justifies the use of taxpayer dollars to discriminate against children and prospective parents is a distortion of such freedom, and a misunderstanding of civil rights law.
We are partners in the sacred work of those faith-based child welfare agencies seeking to unite children with forever families and share their calling to build a world of wholeness and compassion. Further, our values as Americans and as people of faith compel us to ensure that every child finds their forever home, and that every family that can provide a safe, supportive, and loving home for a child is matched with the child that will make their family whole.
Again, we urge you to reject this discriminatory bill. Please do not allow the harms in SB 1140 to become law.
Oklahoma Faith Leaders and Organizations ( )
*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes