Paul Shrier is professor of practical theology at Azusa Pacific University and a foster parent.
Several years ago I facilitated a faith-based luncheon at Azusa Pacific University to promote foster care among faith-based organizations. We invited representatives of churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious groups. We encouraged them to promote foster parenting, thinking that children need homes where they can safely live and grow.
A friend disagreed with the idea of inviting leaders of other faiths. He said he'd rather children bounce around between families or stay in group homes than go to stable homes with foster parents of non-Christian faiths. I suggested that since he felt so strongly, he should become a foster parent. He had no response.
The same principle applies here. There has been a lot of solid, reliable research on outcomes for children fostered or adopted by stable gay couples. The studies show that these children are no more likely to become gay than the general population, and they have a somewhat better chance of finishing high school and thriving in other ways than they do even in heterosexual foster homes. Children flourish in safe, stable environments, no matter what the sexual orientation of the parents.
It would be great if Christians would foster and adopt all of the children in need. Since they don't, the safety and welfare of the child ought to trump our theological and social beliefs. As an adoptive parent and a former foster parent who still helps other foster parents and kids, I have a firsthand understanding of children's needs. They need love and safety. The beliefs of those who provide it are secondary; the Bible shows that God can use even non-believing parents to accomplish his ends.
It is also important to consider God's leading to individual organizations rather than making a blanket judgment. Michael Klausman, president of the CBS Studio Center, once told me that when the hit TV show Will & Grace first came out, Christians sent letters condemning him for airing a TV show with a main character who was gay. He said, "I guess I could have just taken a stand if I agreed with them and said to the network, 'Either you don't air that show or I quit.'"
But he said God didn't tell him to do that, so he didn't. When you pray, what is God telling you?
Klausman also noted that if he had quit his job over Will & Grace, he would have lost his influence in the arena.
The same idea applies here: If you're helping dozens or hundreds of kids every year, why would you quit helping them because you might have to work with a couple once in a while whose lifestyle you may or may not oppose? It's your task to determine if they have a safe, healthy home for the kids. You forgo accomplishing a lot of good in the lives of children when you throw in the towel.
Providing good homes to kids is the most important outcome. You ought to pray and see what God has to say about your individual situation. Keep your eye on the goal: helping kids. If you quit helping, who else will?
Take it to Court
Lynne Marie Kohm is a professor of family law at Regent University and author of several books and articles on family and marriage.
Mandates requiring foster-care agencies to work with same-sex couples are unconstitutional, so rather than closing, foster-care agencies faced with such mandates should fight the requirements in court.
Such mandates are designed to close agencies and make them recoil and plead under political pressure; they are designed to drive faith from the public square and from children. They are bad for children and un-American.
The first adoption law in the United States, in Massachusetts in 1854, considered the needs and "best interests" of the adopted child. This innovative doctrine mandating care and protection for children above all established a new legal standard. This standard is now applied in every adoption court in the nation.
Regulations requiring same-sex couples be allowed to adopt are designed to give adults the right to adopt. They suggest that any persons should be legally qualified to be parents, particularly when children languish in foster care. These regulations, however, represent a fundamental shift away from the best interest of the child toward the interests of the adult.
Some states, building on the findings of social science research, require adoption and foster-care agencies to favor heterosexual couples as potential parents. Faith-based adoption agencies generally work under the presumption that children deserve to have both a father and a mother. They seek to place children in ideal environments where they can have the benefit of both parents.
To require any agency to place children for adoption without the benefit of both a father and a mother instantly disadvantages the child. It does not provide for the child's best interests, but places the interests of the adult above those of the child. When states move from prioritizing the best interests of the child to prioritizing adult preference, children are intentionally deprived of a parent.
This is also a question of law and ethics. When faith-based agencies are required to place children with same-sex couples, they simply cannot ethically do so. A Christian ethic requires the agency to place children with parents who provide for their best interests and to not deprive them of a father or a mother. It is not a question of whether such agencies should work with gay couples; they simply cannot. And the U.S. Constitution protects them.
Leaders of faith throughout history have held that when law demands an action contrary to conviction, that law cannot be obeyed. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement and Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the Nazi regime had to obey their faith convictions. When laws require Christians to act in a manner contrary to their faith, they cannot obey. Regulations that require agencies to provide adoptions to same-sex couples work to defy religious freedom. Christians must follow their consciences and faith.
The issue, then, is not whether Christians should stop adoption/foster-care programs if required by law to work with same-sex couples. Laws requiring faith-based adoption agencies to act contrary to their faith are laws they cannot follow and must challenge in court.
Ryan T. Anderson is editor of Public Discourse, an online journal of the Witherspoon Institute.
Christians should not stop their adoption and foster-care programs, but neither should they comply with laws that would force them to place children with same-sex couples. Christians should continue operating their charitable organizations according to their principles, and they should continue serving the least among us until the state coercively shuts them down.
They should do this because when Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and care for the widow and orphan, he meant it. He meant it when he said we should love our neighbor, but he didn't mean that we love them according to secularist liberal values or the dictates of the state. We should love them as Christ loves them.
God created us to be loved and cared for by a mother and a father. Knowing this truth isn't peculiar to Christian revelation—it's inherent in human nature. Not surprisingly, the best social science confirms the biblical truth that children do best when reared by a mom and a dad.
This isn't to denigrate anyone, but it is to say that two people of the same sex are not the equivalent of a married mother and father. Any law that says that they are gets the family wrong. This does a great disservice to children, and the church should oppose this injustice to children. Christians should challenge such a law in court.
Christians should continue to serve children and society according to their convictions because, beyond getting the family wrong, these laws get the relationship of church and state wrong. Provided religious actors aren't harming anyone or violating others' rights, there's no compelling state interest in coercing religious charities to violate their principles. Christians aren't seeking to bar same-sex couples from adopting from other agencies. They are just asking that they not be forced to place children with same-sex couples themselves.
The truth of the matter is that long before the state of Massachusetts or Illinois existed, long before the United States existed, Christ's church was ministering to the poor. Christians should continue to stand on biblical principles in the face of laws that unjustly usurp the authority of voluntary charities and grant government power to regulate their activity even when they cause no harm.
Such a law would be deeply unjust. Christians should recognize, following Augustine as cited by Martin Luther King Jr. in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," that an unjust law is no binding law at all. As King explained, referencing Aquinas, "an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law."
To witness to the truth of Christ's commands to love and care for the least among us, to God's designs in creating the human family, to the truth that while we should render to Caesar what is Caesar's, we should render to God what is God's, the church should neither stop her charitable activities nor comply with this law—but should continue operating her charitable services and force the state to take action.
Copyright © 2012 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Previous Village Green sections have discussed pets in heaven, secular television shows with moral messages, pro-life and pro-death penalty, sports and violence, virtual fellowship, online dating, Muslim-Christian relations, military drones, terminal illness, marijuana morality, credit card debt, tithing during unemployment, illegal immigrants, and giving to street people.
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