Dear Sir or Madam,
I am deeply troubled by attempts to undermine the correct decision reached by the State Board of Social Services on April 20 regarding Virginia adoption regulations. The Board upheld the fundamental right of faith-based agencies to pursue their vital work without government intrusion into the practice of their faith. This was absolutely the right decision.
Faith-based agencies, including Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, 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 traces its origin to the Religion Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"). It is a right that must be respected and preserved.
Many biological parents and prospective adoptive parents hold these beliefs as well, and they have every right to work with agencies that share their values. 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.
At a practical level, faith-based agencies provide vital services to our communities. I am keenly aware of this fact because I serve as Chairman of the Board of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Catholic Charities of Arlington, for example, would not be able to continue providing adoption services if it meant breaking a law or regulation that ran counter to Catholic doctrine or compromised the Catholic identity of our agency. Faith-based agencies of all denominations must be allowed to continue the invaluable work they are doing.
Misguided attempts to impose "political correctness" on faith-based agencies are fundamentally flawed and are the antithesis of the religious liberty upon which this country was founded. I urge the State Board of Social Services to hold fast to its principled decision of April 20.
Richard T. Kaplar
Chairman of the Board
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington