Art Bennett / President & CEO Catholic Charities, Diocese of Arlington
Protect Freedom of Conscience in Virginia
On behalf of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington I write in support of 22 VAC 40-131-170B as approved by the State Board of Social Services on April 20.
Since 1947, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington has been driven by a mission similar to the majority of adopting agencies that serve Virginians: namely to serve our neighbors in need in accord with the best interests of those we serve and the teachings of our respective faiths.
That commitment to faith by a majority of adopting agencies in the Commonwealth provides excellent service to birth parents, adoptive parents and children.
Currently the Board-approved 22 VAC 40-131-170B states: “The licensee shall prohibit acts of discrimination based on race, color, or national origin to: (1) Delay or deny a child’s placement; or (2) Deny an individual the opportunity to become a foster or adoptive parent.”
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington supports this provision. During the prior comment period, Catholic Charities objected to the inclusion of other items, such as sexual orientation, family status, religion, and age. We renew this objection and support the provision’s current language, which is squarely in line with federal law and avoids inconsistencies with state law.
Virginia has always been a bastion of freedom of religion and conscience. It is one of the bedrock and identifying principles of our Commonwealth. Including items into the adoption regulations that would force faith-based adoption agencies to defy their conscience and creeds would be a clear violation of these freedoms. These agencies’ deeply held convictions regarding the sanctity of marriage, the family, and human sexuality must be honored. It would be unjust, unwise, and reprehensible to tell faith-based agencies that they could no longer practice the very beliefs that undergird and animate their services.
For these reasons and others, we support the State Board of Social Services’ correct April 20 vote to affirm the rights of faith-based adoption agencies. We thank them for their vote in favor of freedom of conscience in Virginia and we urge the Board to continue to affirm its decision.