|SYNOPSIS:||This bill would establish the Alabama Child Care Provider Inclusion Act.|
|This bill would prohibit the state from discriminating against a child care service provider on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child care service that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.|
|This bill would prohibit the state from refusing to license or renew the license of a provider of a child care service on the basis that the provider declines to carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.|
|This bill would also expressly authorize civil remedies for enforcement including attorneys' fees.|
To establish the Alabama Child Care Provider Inclusion Act; to prohibit the state from discriminating against or refusing to license a provider of child care services licensed by the state on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child care service or carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider; and to provide for civil remedies.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. This act may be cited as the Alabama Child Care Provider Inclusion Act of 2015.
Section 2. The Legislature finds all of the following:
(1) Alabama provides state licensed child care services through various state, charitable, religious, and private organizations.
(2) Religious organizations, in particular, have a lengthy and distinguished history of providing child care services that predate government involvement.
(3) Religious organizations have long been and should continue to contract with and be licensed by the state to provide child care services.
(4) The faith of the people of the United States has always played a vital role in efforts to serve the most vulnerable and this act seeks to ensure that people of any faith, or no faith at all, are free to serve children and families who are in need in ways consistent with the communities that first inspired their service.
(5) Religious organizations display particular excellence when providing child care services.
(6) Religious organizations cannot provide certain child care services, such as foster care placements and adoption, without receiving a state contract or license.
(7) Child care service providers, both individuals and organizations, have the inherent, fundamental, and inalienable right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
(8) The Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment, Amendment 622 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 3.01 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, protects the free exercise of religion rights of Alabama citizens by prohibiting the government from burdening the freedom of religion of a person unless the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is done in the least restrictive means.
(9) The right to free exercise of religion for child care service providers includes the freedom to refrain from conduct that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(10) Children and families benefit greatly from the child care services provided by religious organizations.
(11) Ensuring that religious organizations can continue to provide child care services will benefit the children and families that receive those services.
(12) The state provides licensed child care services through individual child care service providers with varying religious beliefs.
(13) Many individual child care service providers maintain sincerely held religious beliefs that relate to their work and the providers should not be forced to choose between their livelihood and adherence to those beliefs or convictions.
(14) Because state and private entities provide child care services through many entities, each with varying religious beliefs or no religious beliefs, the religiously compelled inability of the entities to provide certain services will not prevent any particular individual from alternative equal access to child care services.
(15) There is no compelling reason to require a child care service provider to violate its sincerely held religious beliefs in providing any service, since alternative access to the services is equally available.
(16) This act implements remedial measures that are congruent and proportional to protecting the constitutional rights of child care service providers guaranteed under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
(17) This act is not intended to limit or deny the eligibility of any individual to adopt a child or participate in foster care.
Section 3. For the purposes of this act, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
(1) ADVERSE ACTION. With respect to a child care service provider, any action that materially alters the terms or conditions of a contract or license of the provider under a state program, including any of the following:
a. Refusing to enter into a contract.
b. Refusing to renew a contract.
c. Canceling a contract.
d. Taking an enforcement action against the entity.
e. Refusing to issue a license.
f. Refusing to renew a license.
g. Canceling a license.
(2) CHILD CARE PROGRAM. A program under the Alabama Child Care Act of 1971, Chapter 7, Title 38, Code of Alabama 1975.
(3) CHILD CARE SERVICE PROVIDER or PROVIDER. An organization, corporation, group, entity, or individual that provides, seeks to provide, or applies for or receives a license or contract for an institution, agency, center, home, or facility as defined in the Alabama Child Care Act of 1971, Chapter 7, Title 38, Code of Alabama 1975.
(4) CHILD CARE SERVICE. A social service provided to, or on behalf of, a child, including assisting abused, neglected, or troubled children, counseling children or parents, promoting foster parenting, providing foster homes or temporary group shelters for children, recruiting foster parents, placing children in foster homes, licensing foster homes, promoting adoption, recruiting adoptive parents, assisting adoptions, supporting adoptive families, assisting kinship guardianships, assisting kinship caregivers, providing family preservation services, providing family support services, providing time limited family reunification service, and any other activity or service pursuant to the Alabama Child Care Act of 1971, Chapter 7, Title 38, Code of Alabama 1975.
Section 4. The purposes of this act are as follows:
(1) To prohibit governmental entities from discriminating or taking an adverse action against a child care service provider on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child care service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the provider.
(2) To protect the exercise of religion of child care service providers and to ensure that governmental entities will not be able to force those providers, either directly or indirectly, to discontinue all or some of their child care services because they decline to provide a child care service that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(3) To provide relief to child care service providers whose rights have been violated.
Section 5. (a) The state may not refuse to license or otherwise discriminate or take an adverse action against any provider that is licensed by or required to be licensed by the state for a child care program on the basis that the provider declines to carry out an activity under the program that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the sincerely held religious beliefs of the provider.
(b) If a provider under subsection (a) declines to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service, the decision of the provider may not limit the ability of another provider to provide, facilitate, or refer for those services.
Section 6. A provider injured by a violation of subsection (a) of Section 5 may obtain all appropriate relief, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages, with respect to that violation, including reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.
Section 7. This act shall become effective immediately following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.