RFRA-Style Adoption Bill Signed by Governor, ACLU of Michigan Vows Legal Challenge

June 11, 2015

LANSING – Despite his promise to veto any standalone Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a package of bills today allowing faith-based adoption agencies to refuse service to anyone they object to on religious grounds — even though these agencies receive state funding supported by taxpayers. House Bills 4188-4190, like measures rejected by lawmakers in Texas, Alabama, and Florida this year, will allow religiously affiliated foster agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, religious minorities, single parents, and any other prospective parents who do not share the religious beliefs of the agency.

The following can be attributed to Rana Elmir, ACLU of Michigan deputy director:

“We’re deeply disappointed that Governor Snyder signed this dangerous legislation. We are developing a lawsuit with our Muslim, Jewish, Christian and LGBTQ partners. We encourage any family looking to adopt or foster children who believe they will be adversely affected by this law to contact us immediately. The agencies that are subject to HB 4188-4190 are receiving state money to perform a public function and are therefore state actors. Agencies have a legal obligation to ensure the best interests of the child are considered during placement. There is nothing about this shameful legislation that helps vulnerable kids find homes.”

The ACLU also opposes Senate Bill 4, the misnamed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would let individuals put their religious beliefs ahead of established state and local laws by letting individuals argue they should be exempt from any law that they say “burdens” their exercise of religion. Michigan’s RFRA legislation is currently being considered by lawmakers and is very similar to the legislation passed in Indiana, which is expected to cause a significant loss of business in that state — an estimated $256 million over the next six years.

RFRA legislation can have many other unintended consequences created when individuals prioritize religious freedom — which is already protected by the U.S. and state constitutions — over the rights and safety of others. There’s also the potential for frivolous lawsuits, which have tied up courts in many states where these laws exist, at a cost to municipalities and taxpayers.