The thirty day comment period regarding regulations for private adoption agencies in Virginia ended on October 12 with over 2,000 comments submitted. Unfortunately, the system was not set up to guarantee that all comments submitted were from people who actually live in Virginia. At its meeting on October 19 in Abingdon, the Board of Social Services did not discuss the issue.

We anticipate that the Board will vote again at its December meeting on the proposal to force private, faith-based child placement agencies to adopt children to homosexuals or lose their licenses. The proposal was not included in regulations adopted by the Board in April, but groups like the ACLU and Equality Virginia threatened legal action if there was not additional public comment time.

I want to thank all of you who took the time to submit a comment to the Board! Just a cursory review indicated that the comments from both opponents and proponents of the so-called “non-discrimination” language were about even, despite the fact that the new comment period was driven entirely by proponents of the unnecessary and dangerous regulation.

A couple of comments by proponents of the regulation stood out, and should cause those who believe in true religious liberty to shutter.

The ACLU commented, “By running an adoption service, adoption agencies have entered the secular world—and must follow secular rules.” Obviously, the implications of such a standard on religious liberty – and any action anyone in a church or faith-based ministry takes outside the walls of the “church” – is frightening.

Apparently, in the opinion of the ACLU, activity by the church in the public square is automatically to be deemed “secular” and void of religious implications. Such a standard not only dismisses the mandate that Christians have to take care of “widows and orphans” but in this particular case flies in the face of over a hundred years of adoption law. It implies that our faith driven actions to help people outside of the walls of the church is secular once we actually act, making our religious faith essentially meaningless and void of deserving protection in the public square.

Adoption began as a faith driven concept, not “secular.” According to comments submitted to the Board by the Alliance Defense Fund, faith-based adoption agencies originated in the mid-nineteenth century and pre-date most state adoption statutes. In other words, it is the state that infringed on a religious activity, not the other way around. Virginia’s first adoption statute didn’t appear until 1891, well after the establishment of many faith-based adoption agencies.

In her comments, Claire Gastanaga of Equality Virginia repeatedly asserts that private adoption agencies become an “agent of the state,” and consequently give up the right to their deeply held religious principles and commitments that motivated their actions on the first place! She makes clear the goal of proponents: “Those agencies that do not believe that they can in good conscience offer services without discrimination … may avoid being ‘forced’ to do anything by simply choosing not to continue to be a licensed agent of the state.”

In other words, do it our way or go out of business. So much for tolerance and for only wanting to be treated “equally.”

Not to mention the frightening concept of private citizens becoming “agents of the state” at the whim of the government or simply because the government has chosen to regulate an activity.

As we approach December’s Board of Social Services meeting we will update you on any information that comes available. We will, of course, be there to testify and will invite legal experts, religious leaders and directors of faith-based child placement agencies to attend as well.