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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious freedom to hate and denigrate

Part 2: 2015-MAR-JUN
Governor Snyder (R) promises to veto any broad
RFRA bill. He later signs 3 narrower bills into law.

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This topic is continued from Part 1

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2015: Three different RFRA bills were being considered by the Legislature:

They are:

  1. An "Indiana style" bill called The Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would allow allow the owner of a Public Accommodation to discriminate against potential customers on religious grounds, and use the RFRA as a defense in court. This was apparently a true "religious freedom to discriminate act," -- similar to the devastating bill in Indiana and exactly the type of bill that Governor Snyder has promised to veto. This bill did not proceed.

  2. A series of three bills that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to reject people on religious grounds when they apply to adopt a child. The agency could, for example, automatically reject all same-sex couples, unmarried couples, couples where one or both spouses had previously obtained a civil divorce, single applicants, applicants who follow the "wrong" or no religion, etc.

  3. Allow medical personnel or hospitals to reject patients if the requested services violate their religious belief. For example, they might refuse assisted fertility procedures to single persons and/or same-sex couples. 1 This bill did not proceed.

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2015-MAR: The Michigan House approved the three adoption agency bills:

The three bills passed the state House during March, each by the same vote of 65-44. One Republican representative voted against the bills; three Democrat representatives voted in favor of the bills. Otherwise all of the voting was strictly along party lines.

Rep. Jeff Irwin (D) said at the time that the bills are:

"... not just a license to discriminate. it's actually writing a check for the discrimination." 2

However, Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R) had a very different view. She said:

These bills simply preserve the system we use today. This bill is not about who can and who cannot adopt a child. It's about ensuring the most alternatives for people wanting to adopt a child." 3

Tom Hickson, the Vice President for Public Policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference said that the bills would make sure that children who are available for adoption would be able to find "loving homes" for themselves. 3

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Webmaster's comment [bias alert]:

The comments by LaFontaine and Hickson make my brain hurt. It seems obvious to me that if an adoption agency is allowed to reject entire groups of parents who are seeking a child to adopt, that the pool of potential adopting parents will be significantly reduced in number. This will cause the number of children who can be adopted into a "forever family" to also be reduced. Also, the adoption agencies would not be able to select the best parents for their children; they can only select the best parents from among those who have passed the agency's religious test. This is the exact opposite to what these people are saying.

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Three adoption bills passed to allow agencies to discriminate (Cont'd):

Rep. Jon Hoadley (D), who is openly gay, said:

"No matter how well intentioned, these [bills] will produce bad results. They put the best interest of the agency over the child, they are discriminatory ... They violate our state constitution by elevating some religious beliefs above others. ... They allow agencies to pick and choose what children they want to [serve]." 1

He also said that the bill will contribute to homophobia in the state. He further commenting that the bills would:

"... put the best interest of the agency over the best interest of the child. ... It violates the [First Amendment to the U.S.] Constitution because it elevates some religious beliefs over others." 1

Rep. Jeff Irwin (D) said:

"It's writing a check for discrimination. It's state-funded discrimination."

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2015-JUN: The Michigan Senate approved the adoption agency bills:

During the debate in June, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R) promoted the bills saying that it would:

"... codify decades of practices. I'm the proud product of a faith-based adoption." 1

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a pro-equality group, said:

"Gov. Snyder has claimed he wants to make Michigan a welcoming place and that he doesn't believe in discrimination. It's time for him to act on those supposed convictions and veto this dangerous legislation. ..."

"Conservative elected officials have been hell-bent in their quest to enshrine discrimination into state law and this is the next chapter of that effort. Discrimination has no place in Michigan and this legislation will ultimately hurt children, loving families, and the entire state. Gov. Snyder has the opportunity to prove that the welfare of children in our state is more important than partisan politics. We urge him to veto this bill immediately."

The vote in the Senate was 26 to 12 in favor of three House Bills 4188, 4189, and 4190 which would allow adoption agencies to discriminate according to their religious beliefs. The vote was mostly along party lines with Republicans in favor and the Democrats opposed. 2

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Dave Murray, a spokesperson for Governor Snyder issued a statement saying that:

"Gov, Snyder will be taking a close look at the bills once they are approved in both chambers and are formally presented." 4

Dawn Ennis, writing for The Advocate -- a pro-equality group -- wrote:

"The so-called religious freedom bills also prohibit state and local government from rescinding funding to faith-based adoption agencies, even if the agency's policy violates a local nondiscrimination ordinance." 2

Marty Rouse, national field director for another pro-equality group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), wrote:

"Governor Snyder has the opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of Indiana Governor Pence. Fair-minded Michiganders, corporations, business leaders, and major child advocacy organizations are united in saying this kind of extreme legislation is flat out wrong and sends the wrong message about the future of Michigan. Governor Snyder absolutely must veto this virulently anti-LGBT legislation." 2

Michigan Congressman, Rep. Dan Kildee (D), issued a statement saying:

"It is astounding to me that Republicans in Lansing, rather than working to fix Michigan's crumbling roads, instead chose to spend their time today codifying discrimination into state law. This latest package of anti-LGBT bills does nothing to create jobs or spur our state's economy. Instead it gives the state a license to discriminate against loving Michigan families. The State Legislature should be ashamed of their misplaced priorities and I hope that Governor Snyder vetoes this package of extreme bills." 2

Rep. Kildee appears in error. The bills, if signed into law, world not give the state a license to discriminate; it would give adoption agencies that license.

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2015-JUN-10: The three adoption bills become law:

Governor Snyder (R) signed the bills in to law very quickly, on the same day that they were passed by the Senate. 2 Adoption agencies that are funded by the state now are able to reject  prospective parents on religious grounds. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been violated and Michigan has become -- in this one area -- a theocracy.

He said that he signed the bills to:

"... help continue Michigan's successful placement of children with loving families by codifying current adoption practices within the state.

The state has made significant progress in finding more homes for Michigan kids in recent years and that wouldn't be possible without the public-private partnerships that facilitate the adoption process. We are focused on ensuring that as many children are adopted to as many loving families as possible regardless of their makeup." 4

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Webmaster's comment [bias alert]:

My brain continues to hurt due to cognitive dissonance between reality and some politicians' description of reality.

His comment would seem to fit the facts much better if he had just vetoed the bill instead of signing it into law. The adoption agencies in the state typically have many children ready for adoption. By allowing faith based religious groups to discriminate against otherwise excellent candidates to adopt children, the number of families where children can be placed will automatically be reduced. This will lengthen the time that these children will spend in foster homes, hoping to someday have a "forever home" in a permanent family. Faith based adoption agencies in Michigan will now not place children with the best potential parents; they will only be placed in families led by the best opposite-sex parents.

During the inevitable lawsuits that will challenge these laws in courts, many couples from the LGBT community, as well as couples where one or both spouses have been divorced in the past, etc. will find themselves in the awkward position of having a portion of the taxes that they pay to the state used by that government to oppose their desire to adopt. That may be difficult for some of them to handle.

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Reactions to Governor Snyder's action which has legalized adoption discrimination in the state:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan is planning to file a lawsuit to have the new law declared unconstitutional. 3

Rana Elmir, the ACLU-Michigan deputy director said:

"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 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) referred to the new law as a "package of extreme anti-LGBT adoption bills." HRC President Chad Griffin said:

"Governor Rick Snyder has proven today that he has utter disdain for the welfare of children in Michigan and that he cares only about empowering backwards discrimination. This legislation keeps children in need out of the loving homes they deserve, and it sets this great state back decades." 4

Michigan House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel said that he is:

"... bitterly disappointed by Gov. Rick Snyder's signing of the adoption discrimination bills into law today.

Just three months ago, Snyder said he would not support a proposal allowing people and businesses to use their faith as legal grounds to discriminate. I can't understand his action today as anything other than a betrayal of Michigan's diverse population." 4

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More developments are expected as lawsuit(s) are filed and hearings are held.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Kathleen Gray, "Snyder: I would veto a religious freedom bill," Detroit Free Press, 2015-APR-02, at:
  2. Dawn Ennis, "Michigan Lawmakers Send Governor Discriminatory Adoption Bills," The Advocate, 2015-JUN-10, at:
  3. Mark Yapching, "Michigan passes bill allowing adoption refusal on faith-based grounds," 2015-MAR-25, at:
  4. Jonah Hicap, "New Michigan law allows faith-based adoption agencies to refuse service to gays and lesbians," Christian Today, 2015-JUN-14, at:

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > Religious freedom > Religious freedom to hate > here

Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > Religious freedom to hate > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2015-JUL-17
Latest update : 2015-JUL-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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