Time to stand up and be counted

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ATLANTA — It is time to call your state representative. I know you may get an automated, beyond annoying, extremely irritating, recording informing you that your call could not be answered because of an “unusually high call volume.”

However, picking up the phone and calling your state representative is incredibly effective. And, if we want to have a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. We must be involved. The state senate has passed an adoption bill that is headed for the “House” and your representative needs to know how you feel, particularly if you are for the bill.

On Feb. 23 the Georgia Senate passed SB 375, which is named the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act.” The purpose of the bill is to encourage more religious adoption agencies to open in Georgia.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 35-19. Advocates of the legislation say the measure would encourage more faith-based nonprofits to serve as foster placement agencies. Senator William Ligon of Brunswick sponsored the bill, saying, ‘The goal is to open as many doors as possible for those children that are in need of homes, and this bill will do that.

“I think [the vote] went well; and when it passes the House and hopefully the governor signs it our faith-based agencies will be able to continue to offer their services to children in foster care homes and place them up for adoption.”

Mike Griffin, Georgia Baptist Public Affairs representative at the Capitol, explained, “This will simply continue the practice that is going on now, but it ensures that we are not going to have any problem in the future.”

Ligon added, “Churches and people of faith have been providing children with homes for centuries, before the states got into the business. This bill continues that tradition.” See the senator’s full comments here.

The Brunswick senator stressed that SB 375 would encourage other faith-based adoption agencies to locate in Georgia. He also stated that there are now three or four adoption agencies in Georgia that cannot do business with the state because of the way the contract is written.

Co-sponsors of SB 375 include Senators Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro; Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega; David Schafer, R-Duluth; Greg Kirk, R-Americus; Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga; Bill Heath, R-Bremen; and Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, among others.

Opponents of the bill claim that the legislation would discriminate against same-sex couples qualifying as adoptive parents, and that it could hamper Georgia’s chances of landing Amazon’s second headquarters. However, if there is any issue of discrimination, it is about faith-based agencies not being discriminated against in the future.

Georgia has always recognized the importance of faith-based agencies and their mission statements. The state has a constitutional duty to be proactive in protecting First Amendment freedoms for religious persons and their institutions.

We know already of at least three states (Illinois, Massachusetts, and California) and Washington, D.C., where faith-based, child-placing agencies have shut down because of state policies that required them to compromise their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding the biblical view of the family.

A vote will now have to take place in the House for this legislation to make it to the governor’s desk. The bill is presently in the House Judiciary Committee awaiting a hearing and a vote in order for it to make it to the floor of the House before the 40th day, which is March 29.

Please contact your House representative and ask for their support of this important legislation. Visit www.openstates.org to find your House member and contact information. Also, pray for its passage. 

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