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New bill aims to protect religious foster families from 'anti-Christian, far-Left agenda'

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown August 16, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The HHS building, also known as the Hubert H. Humphrey building, is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and is named for Humphrey, who served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota and vice president of the United States.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown August 16, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The HHS building, also known as the Hubert H. Humphrey building, is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and is named for Humphrey, who served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota and vice president of the United States. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A new bill seeks to block the Biden administration from implementing a rule that would require foster care agencies to place LGBT children with families that affirm their stated gender identities.

Reps. Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., and Mary Miller, R-Ill., introduced the Protecting Religious Freedom for Foster Families Act Wednesday. The legislation’s sponsors seek to push back against what they call the administration’s “anti-Christian, far-Left agenda.” 

The text of the bill, obtained by The Christian Post, shows that the legislation seeks to “prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from finalizing, implementing, or enforcing the proposed rule, entitled ‘Safe and Appropriate Foster Care Placement Requirements for Titles IV–E and IV– B.’” 

“The federal government should not force foster families to violate their sincerely held religious or moral beliefs in order to house children," Brecheen said in a statement to CP.

“President Biden’s bureaucrats continue to pursue an anti-Christian, far-Left agenda — all without the authority of Congress," he added. "With this legislation, we are fighting back."

The proposed HHS rule in question, submitted to the Federal Register on Sept. 28, would amend portions of the Social Security Act requiring agencies that place children in foster care to develop “a plan for assuring that the child receives safe and proper care and that services are provided to the parents, child, and foster parents in order to improve the conditions in the parents’ home, facilitate return of the child to his own safe home or the permanent placement of the child, and address the needs of the child while in foster care.”

The proposal contends that Titles IV–E and IV–B of the Social Security Act mandate that agencies work to “achieve placement in a safe setting that is the least restrictive (most family like) and most appropriate setting available and in close proximity to the parents’ home, consistent with the best interest and special needs of the child[.]” 

The rule proposal outlines what it characterizes as the “overrepresentation of LGBTQI+ children in foster care” and the need for them to “experience supportive environments and services” that allow them to live consistently with their sexual orientation and/or gender identity."

The proposed rule also details new “requirements to ensure children in foster care who identity as LGBTQI+ are provided with placements the agency designates as safe and appropriate for an LGBTQI+ child, and with services that are necessary to support their health and wellbeing.” 

The Biden administration seeks to require “agencies to ensure that the totality of their child welfare system includes sufficient placements for LGBTQI+ children that meet these standards, but would not require that every provider become designated as a safe and appropriate placement for LGBTQI+ children.” Requirements for a “safe and appropriate placement” for LGBT children include “an environment free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse based on the child’s LGBTQI+ status.”

Providers wishing to meet the requirements for designation as “safe and appropriate placements” would also have to undergo training “to be prepared with the appropriate knowledge and skills to provide for the needs of the child related to the child’s self-identified sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” and “facilitate the child’s access to age-appropriate resources, services, and activities that support their health and well-being.” 

“The proposed requirements would also prohibit retaliation against a child who identifies as or is perceived to be LGBTQI+, require specific steps before the placement of transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming children in sex-segregated child-care institutions (CCIs), require specific training for IV–E/IV–B agency caseworkers and supervisors on how to appropriately serve LGBTQI+ youth and on how to implement the procedural requirements of this proposed rule,” the proposal continues. 

The proposed rule lists placements where the provider uses “derogatory language or slurs about a child's LGBTQI+ identity” or “attempted to undermine, suppress, or change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of a child, including through the use of so-called ‘conversion therapy’” as examples of failure to meet those criteria. 

“To be considered a safe and appropriate placement, a provider is expected to utilize the child’s identified pronouns, chosen name, and allow the child to dress in an age-appropriate manner that the child believes reflects their self-identified gender identity and expression,” the rule proposal states.

In other words, placements must fully “affirm” a trans-identified child’s stated gender identity. 

The proposed rule would also require agencies to “make placements consistent with the child’s self-identified gender identity” if they are placing LGBT children in a “sex segregated child-care institution.”

The proposal addresses its potential implications on religious liberty, insisting that “nearly all of the requirements in this proposed rule would be imposed directly on state and tribal IV–E/IV–B agencies, as opposed to on any private foster care agency, foster parent, kinship caregiver or other provider.”

In addition to noting the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the notice of proposed rulemaking asserts that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that “the First Amendment protects faith-based entities that provide foster care services.”

It maintained that “the proposed rule, if adopted, would not require any faith-based provider to seek designation as a safe and appropriate provider for LGBTQI+ children as described in this proposed rule if the provider had sincerely held religious objections to doing so.”

The proposal still requires contractors, subrecipients and placement providers not seeking designation as safe and appropriate placements for LGBTQI+ children to be informed of the procedural requirements, including the non-retaliation provision.

It contains a provision enabling foster care providers to seek a religious exemption to the proposed requirements for LGBT children. 

Concerns remain about the implications of the proposed rule on individual foster care providers with deeply held religious beliefs who may not be directly affiliated with a faith-based organization. 

In a statement to CP, Miller cited the proposed rule as an example of how “the Biden administration is intent on pushing its radical transgender agenda, regardless of who it harms.”

"[T]hrough this proposed rule, Biden’s HHS is circumventing Congressional authority and forcing foster families to violate their deeply held religious convictions," Miller argues. 

“Parents must continue to fight Joe Biden's radical attempts to eliminate parental rights while he pushes chemical castration on vulnerable children without parental knowledge or consent.”

The Protecting Religious Freedom for Foster Families Act applies to the Sept. 28 notice of proposed rulemaking as well as “any substantially similar rule.”

Reps. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Barry Moore, R-Ala., have signed on as co-sponsors. Those wishing to submit public comments on the administration's rule proposal have until Nov. 27 to do so. 

Since Democrats control the U.S. Senate and White House, it is unlikely the bill will be enacted into law during the 118th Congress.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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