Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN
AUSTIN (BP) — A Texas bill offering legal protection for faith-based foster and adoption care agencies is on its way to the state’s Senate floor for debate.
Biblically faithful agencies who find themselves at odds with the politics of sexual identity are seeking relief from the Texas legislature that would allow them to continue ministering to children in accordance with their faith.
If the bill passes the Senate without amendments, it will go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it. The date for the Senate debate has not been set as of May 16.
Despite Republican control of both legislative chambers, House Bill 3859 has received stiff challenges in and out of the Capitol. Answering accusations of “discrimination” and “bigotry” has put many of the bill’s supporters on the defensive. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, religious liberty organizations and conservative lawmakers have dismissed the criticism as unfounded and championed the bill as an essential component of the sorely needed Texas adoption and foster care overhaul.
Its author — Rep. James Frank, R- Wichita Falls — has repeatedly responded to accusations that the bill will prevent gays and lesbians from fostering or adopting or keep teenage girls from accessing abortion services and contraceptives.
“Nothing in 3859 will prevent or even add barriers to same-sex couples who desire to foster or adopt. Nothing,” Frank told the TEXAN. “The bill simply codifies current federal guidelines at the state level and provides a way to refer and make sure all individuals that are seeking to adopt or become foster parents can do so without losing the 25 percent that want to be free to serve and follow their faith.”