|SYNOPSIS:||This bill would establish the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act.|
|This bill would prohibit the state from discriminating against child placing agencies on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placement 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 child placing agency on the basis that the provider declines to carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the agency.|
To establish the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act; to prohibit the state from discriminating against or refusing to license a provider of child placing services licensed by the state on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child placing service or carry out an activity that conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. This act may be cited as the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act.
Section 2. The Legislature finds all of the following:
(1) Alabama provides state licensed child placing services through various state, charitable, religious, and private organizations.
(2) Religious organizations, in particular, have a lengthy and distinguished history of providing child placing services that predate government involvement.
(3) Religious organizations have long been licensed and should continue to contract with and be licensed by the state to provide child placing 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 placing services.
(6) Religious organizations cannot provide certain child placing services without receiving a state license.
(7) Child placing agencies, 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 religious 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 placing agencies includes the freedom to refrain from conduct that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(10) Children and families benefit greatly from the child placing services provided by religious organizations.
(11) Ensuring that religious organizations can continue to provide child placing services will benefit the children and families that receive those services.
(12) The state provides child placing services through individual licensed child placing agencies with varying religious beliefs.
(13) Because state and private entities provide child placing services through many entities, each with varying religious beliefs or no religious beliefs, the religiously compelled inability of the entities to provide child placement will not prevent any particular individual from alternative equal access to child placing services.
(14) There is no compelling reason to require a child placing agency to violate its sincerely held religious beliefs in providing any service, since alternative access to the services is equally available.
(15) This act implements remedial measures that are congruent and proportional to protecting the constitutional rights of child placing agencies guaranteed under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
(16) 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 placing agency, any action that materially alters the license under a state program, including any of the following:
a. Taking an enforcement action against the entity.
b. Refusing to issue a license.
c. Refusing to renew a license.
d. Revoking a license.
e. Suspending a license
(2) CHILD PLACING AGENCY. A private child-care facility which receives no federal funds and which receives, places, or arranges for the placement of any child or children in adoptive or foster family homes apart from the custody of the child's or children's parents, in accordance with the Alabama Child Care Act of 1971, Chapter 7, Title 38, Code of Alabama 1975.
(3) CHILD PLACEMENT SERVICE. The placement of any child or children for adoption in an adoptive home or in a foster home, apart from the custody of the child's or children's parents.
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 placing agency on the basis that the agency declines to make a child placement that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the agency, provided the agency is otherwise in compliance with Minimum Standards for Child Placing Agencies.
(2) To protect the exercise of religion of child placing agencies and to ensure that governmental entities will not be able to force those agencies, either directly or indirectly, to discontinue all or some of their child placing services because they decline to place a child for adoption or in a foster home that conflicts, or under circumstances that conflict, with their sincerely held religious beliefs, when otherwise the agency is in compliance with required Minimum Standards for Child Placing Agencies.
(3) To provide relief to child placing agencies 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 child placing agency that is licensed by or required to be licensed by the state for child placing services on the basis that the child placing agency declines to make, provide, facilitate, or refer for a placement in a manner that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the sincerely held religious beliefs of the child placing agency provided the agency is otherwise in compliance with the requirements of the Alabama Child Care Act of 1971, Chapter 7, Title 38, Code of Alabama 1975, and the Minimum Standards for Child Placing Agencies.
(b) If a child placing agency under subsection (a) declines to make, provide, facilitate, or refer for a child placement, the decision of the child placing agency may not limit the ability of another child placing agency to make, provide, facilitate, or refer for the placement.
Section 6. Child placing agencies shall otherwise meet the Minimum Standards for Child Placing Agencies required for child placement, pursuant to the Alabama Child Care Act of 1971, Chapter 7, Title 38, Code of Alabama 1975.
Section 7. A child placing agency injured by a violation of subsection (a) of Section 5 may obtain all appropriate relief provided by the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act. In addition to the remedies provided therein, an aggrieved agency shall be entitled to all rights, remedies, and defenses available to it under the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the United States Constitution and 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.
Section 8. This act shall become effective immediately following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.