April 23, 2019

Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, (615) 320-7142

NASHVILLE – Today the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance SB 1304, which would allow child placing agencies to discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive families based on the agency's "religious or moral convictions or policies." Its companion bill, HB 836, passed the House earlier this month.

The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee:

"We are deeply troubled by the Senate Judiciary Committee's decision to pass this discriminatory bill.

Families who want to foster or adopt should be judged by their ability to provide loving and stable homes, not because they tick all the boxes of a taxpayer-funded agency's religious or moral conviction checklist. Turning away good families because they don't satisfy one agency's religious preferences would deny thousands of children in Tennessee's foster care system access to the families they desperately need.

ACLU of Tennessee has long defended, and will continue to defend, our fundamental right to religious freedom, which protects all of us from government interference in when, whether and how we choose to practice our faith. What religious freedom does not do is grant government-contracted child welfare agencies the right to impose their own religious eligibility criteria on important government programs.

Our lawmakers must remember that nothing in the Constitution puts the religious preferences of tax-funded agencies ahead of the needs of our state's most vulnerable children. We urge senators to reject using tax-payer dollars to discriminate against Tennesseans and vote no on the Senate floor."