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Is Michigan Taking Religious Freedom Bills Too Far?

Margaret Shea

June 18, 2015


The recent approval of the three- bill package created controversy both domestically and nationally. Was this a change motivated by money or was it truly drawn up for the best interests of the children in need of loving homes? Both Michiganders and Americans set out to answer these questions as House Bills 4188, 4189, and 4190 recently passed through the House.

Under section 14e, House Bill 4188 states that “Private child placing agencies, including faith-based agencies, have the right to free exercise of religion under both the state and federal constitutions. Under well-settled principles of constitutional law, this right includes the freedom to abstain from conduct that conflicts with an agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs” (No. 4188; 1).  In other words, this bill allows religious adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents to support their religious values. Strengthening Michigan’s proposed bill further, No. 4189 expands on section 14 e. and 14 f. to protect the exercise of religious freedom among adoption organizations and to fortify them against potential lawsuits that could arise from declining adoption services. Lastly, HB 4190 protects the rights of Michiganders and requires agencies that reject parents to make referrals to other agencies that are able to provide services.

Supporters argue the latter assuring that the bills will keep more agencies’ doors open. For instance, when Illinois passed a Civil Union Law in 2011 that prohibited prospective parents to be turned away based on sexual orientation, some religious based adoptive agencies closed their doors, with others suing the state of Illinois because of the policy (Oosting 2). Advocates for the new adoption laws also believe that the diverse strategies that the religious organizations contribute to the adoption process attribute to Michigan’s current 80 percent placement rate (Oosting 1). Thus, keeping faith-based agencies open is in the best interest of the children and their placement into a loving environment.

On the other hand, critics are concerned that the separation between church and state is threatened. According to the Department of Human Services, $19.9 million of the 2014-15 budget went towards adoption and foster care service agencies (Gray 2).  It is clear that Michigan youth and building stable loving family structures are necessary allocations of funds. However, many believe that HB 4188 directly funds discrimination and turns away a large pool of loving adults. Furthermore, a 2006 study conducted in Maryland showed that “gay friendly” states have higher adoption rates than states that restrict adoption rights (Oosting 2). Many state representatives are entering the discussion voicing their concerns for the wellbeing of the children and the apparent prejudice the legislation will bring against gay and lesbian couples. State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, (D-Muskegon), comments that “it is time for agencies to shed their prejudices and accept gay and lesbian couples as having the same capacity to love children and be exemplary parents” (Oosting 2).

The debate continues today as many questions arise about future effects of the implementation or the dismissal of the bill package. Governor Snyder is concerned that House Bills 4188, 4189, and 4190 will lead to an increase in litigation. Some went as far to say that the American Civil Liberties Union will not stand for such discriminatory legislation and to expect to see the issue taken to the Supreme Court (Oosting 4). This legislation and inevitable litigation will test both the constitutionality of church verses state and the progressive gay rights movement our country is currently facing.

Work Cited

Enrolled House Bill No. 4188, H.R. 4188 (2015) (enacted). Print.

Enrolled House Bill No. 4189, H.R. 4189 (2015) (enacted). Print.

Enrolled House Bill No. 4190, H.R. 4190 (2015) (enacted). Print.


Gray, Kathleen. "Michigan Law Allows Adoption Agencies to Say No to

Gays." - KYTX Detroit Free Press, 11 May 2015. Web. 18 June 2015.


Oosting, Jonathon. "Michigan House Approves

Religious Objection Bills Letting Adoption Agencies Reject Gay Parents." MLive Media Group, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 18 June 2015.


Oosting, Jonathon. "What's Best for Kids? Michigan Adoption Bills Would

Protect Faith-based Agencies, Limit LCBT Options." MLive Media Group, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 June 2015.


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