'Ideological litmus test' prevented Christian mom from becoming adoptive parent in Oregon: lawsuit

Jessica Bates, a widowed mother of five, is suing state and county officials in Oregon for refusing to provide her with the necessary certification to become an adoptive parent due to her religious beliefs that prevent her from abiding by a state law requiring prospective parents to “respect, accept and support” the “sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression” of the children they seek to adopt. | Alliance Defending Freedom

A new lawsuit accuses the state of Oregon of imposing an “ideological litmus test” for those seeking to adopt children from foster care, which requires adherence to progressive ideology on LGBT issues.

The law firm Alliance Defending Freedom announced in a statement Monday that it had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jessica Bates, “a single mother of five wishing to adopt siblings from foster care.” As noted by the law firm, Bates “seeks to adopt a sibling pair, who are generally harder to place.”

The complaint names Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, Fariborz Pakseresht, Deputy Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, Liesl Wendt, Interim Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division, Aprille Flint-Gerner, as well as Malheur County officials Rebecca Garrison and Cecilia Garcia as defendants. It was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Pendleton Division.

The lawsuit follows the Oregon Department of Human Services’ refusal to grant Bates the certification required to become an adoptive parent after she informed the state that her religious beliefs prevented her from complying with a state law requiring prospective adoptive parents to “respect, accept and support” the “sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression” of the children they seek to adopt.

As she underwent the necessary training to become an adoptive parent, an instructor informed Bates that “adoptive and resource parents must use a child’s stated pronouns and affirm a child’s gender identity if the child’s identity does not align with their biological sex.” Additionally, the instructor provided an example of how a parent could “support a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity” by “allowing a child to dress however they want and taking them to a Pride parade.”

Upon completing the instruction, Bates raised her concerns with Garcia, the certification officer for the Oregon Department of Human Services office in Malheur County. “One of the things the training really emphasized is SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) and that the host must respect, accept, and support children whose preferred pronouns & identity don’t match their biological sex,” she explained.

“I don’t know how many children there are out there under the age of 9 who fall into this category (and to me it’s kind of crazy that society is wanting to get kids thinking about this stuff at such young ages; I think we should let them keep their innocence), so this may not even be an issue, but I need to let you know I cannot support this behavior in a child,” she added. “I have no problem loving them and accepting them as they are, but I would not encourage them in this behavior.”

Bates shared her belief that “God gives us our gender/sex and it’s not something we get to choose,” stressing that “my faith conflicts with this & I just felt that I needed to let you know.”

Garcia did not initially respond to Bates’ email outlining her concerns and did not reply to a follow-up email she sent a month later. When she contacted Bates via telephone a month-and-a-half after she sent the original email, Garcia informed her that she “was ineligible to adopt due to her religious beliefs.”

The lawsuit contends that the Oregon Department of Human Services is violating Bates’ First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech, Association and Assembly as well as the Free Exercise Clause. It also cites the state and local officials’ behavior as violations of Bates’ right to “equal protection of the laws” under the Fourteenth Amendment. The complaint is seeking an order declaring the Oregon state law unconstitutional, preventing the state from enforcing it and awarding Bates attorney’s fees.

ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs decried the Oregon state law as “an ideological litmus test” where “people who hold secular or ‘progressive’ views on sexual orientation and gender identity are eligible to participate in child welfare programs, while people of faith with religiously informed views are disqualified because they don’t agree with the state’s orthodoxy.”

According to Scruggs, “The government can’t exclude certain communities of faith from foster care and adoption services because the state doesn’t like their particular religious beliefs.”

ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse denounced the Oregon law’s “sweeping claim that all persons who hold certain religious beliefs — beliefs held by millions of Americans from diverse religious faiths — are categorically unfit to care for children.” Insisting that such an assertion is “simply not true,” Widmalm-Delphonse slammed Oregon for “putting its political agenda above the needs of countless children who would be happy to grow up in a loving, Christian home like Jessica’s.”

The lawsuit stated that Bates “feels called to open her home to children in need” after hearing “a broadcast about a man who had adopted, which reminded Jessica [of] the biblical command ‘to visit orphans and widows in their affliction’ (James 1:27).” The complaint highlighted how the broadcast inspired Bates to “adopt even though she is raising five children of her own after a car collision tragically killed her husband.”

“Despite this, the sacrificial love extended to her in the Gospel compelled Jessica to
act — to pursue the long Christian tradition of caring for orphans,” the lawsuit added.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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