On April 20, the State Board of Social Services correctly upheld the fundamental right of faith-based agencies to continue their great work without governmental intrusion into the practice of their faith. Faith-based agencies have a right, under federal and state law, to make decisions that are consistent with their religious beliefs, including their beliefs about marriage and family life. This right must be respected and preserved: the United States Constitution guarantees in the First Amendment freedom of religion, not merely freedom of worship, and so faith-based agencies must be permitted to practice the tenets of their religions with regard to their beliefs about marriage and family life.
Many birthparents and prospective adoptive parents hold these beliefs as well, and they have every right to work with agencies that share their values. This, too, is part of the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of religion -- not just worship, but the freedom to act in the public sphere in a manner consistent with the religious tenets one holds.
Forcing agencies and individuals to choose between following their own values or following the law would be an unprecedented violation of religious freedom in Virginia. Religious liberty is foundational to our Commonwealth and our country. Indeed, forcing agencies and individuals into this choice is a violation of those agents' and individuals' First Amendment rights.
Faith-based agencies provide vital services to our communities. They must be allowed to continue the great work they are doing. And Virginians must not be prohibited from exercising their right under freedom of religion to work with agencies that share their values.