Something is rotten in the state of Texas. The state legislature in Austin is currently considering a bill that deals with conscience protections in the state’s adoption and foster care system. This has brought many of the same old smears against the First Amendment — and some new ones re-tooled for the situation at hand.
Of course, the complaints against these conscience protections, with all their tortured extrapolations and contorted possibilities, are really about forcing traditional believers about sex, marriage, and biology out of the sphere — a point which Kevin D. Williamson addressed earlier this week at National Review, writing, “The spirit of Antiochus is alive and well in Austin.”
In a profile piece transparently directed against the bill, the Texas Observer records the story of a foster mother in Austin who claims that the religious liberty protections give adoption agencies and foster parents the ability to harm children.
Of course religious freedom isn’t complete license to do whatever one wills to a child. This issue came up last year in the case of a refugee parent who was brought up on child abuse charges and attempted to use a religious freedom defense; at the time, I explained in detail why this doesn’t work on its face.
Yes, there are backstops against true child abuse when it comes to how one raises their children. There are also backstops against things like human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism, but to put these on the same level as not sharing one’s views on sexuality and not paying for an abortion isn’t serious enough to merit a response.
This is standard-issue fear-mongering for any conscience protection nowadays. But there’s another toxic layer to the anti-liberty arguments in this case: this idea that allowing adoptive and foster families to exercise their God-given conscience rights in rearing children is some sort of violence upon the child. This concept, of course, isn’t limited to the issue of foster care; how many of you have ever heard of parents wanting their child to “choose” their belief system when they’re old enough?
“Denying [kids] access to things they need or forcing your culture on them at the expense of theirs is not in the best interest of the children,” our subject in Austin tells the Observer after the baseless concerns that the bill means parents won’t have to pay for “reproductive health care” (read: abortion). “I know the Legislature wants to do what’s best for kids, but [House Bill 3859] doesn’t do that.”
Here’s the issue, and more to the point at hand: Families impose values on kids. There’s no way to avoid it; that’s just what they do and that’s how societies continue to function and exist.
There’s no way to sterilize families, and the state should have no hand in trying to do so — full stop. The fact that a foster system exists in the first place is an admission that the family is the natural place for a child to be reared, rather than a white-walled government institution, a la Huxley’s “Brave New world.” Trying to make families de facto contractors of such a system is a treacherous folly and a true violence against the weakest among us.
There is simply no way to bring a human being through any stage of childhood or adolescent development without affecting their worldview in some way. Even supposed neutrality comes with the message that things like faith and culture aren’t really anything important to pass on.
Families are the bedrock and the driving unit of any society; we’re all shaped by them in one way or another. Whether our childhood homes were loving, dysfunctional, whole, broken, or non-existent, each one of these is going to leave a child with some kind of message. And those messages decide the future of civilization.
And those who would remove all religious impetus from the equation in dealing with children who desperately need loving homes are going to find themselves in a tough situation. It’s important to note that the current setup in Texas is a result of the fact that the state’s system was near collapse and in dire need of assistance just a few months ago. They may also want a longer history of charitable adoption efforts in the West, as the sheer number of crosses and nuns’ habits are sure to flummox them.
Yes, as the foster mother in the above story says, there are children who need to be met where they are — as do all of us. But meeting someone at any stage of development “where they are” with no intention to go anywhere afterward is a pointless, fruitless exercise.
But, contrary to the overblown concerns that religious freedom protections always bring these days, the government cannot strip families from their instructive nature, and it cannot keep them from religion. It’s bad for believers, their kids, and society as a whole. It shouldn’t even try.