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Atheists: Tennessee Should Not Legalize Discrimination in Adoption and Foster Care

Nashville, TN—Today, American Atheists, on behalf of its nearly 800 constituents in Tennessee, wrote in opposition to HB 836. This controversial bill would, under the guise of religious freedom, harm at-risk young people and allow for discrimination in foster care and adoption placement.

On average, there are 7,500 children in foster care in Tennessee. Around 350 children are available for adoption in Tennessee but haven’t found a home. Nationally, nearly 24,000 youths age out of foster care each year, finding themselves with no support at age 18. Even worse, 20% of them become homeless.

These Tennessee children deserve a loving home. HB 836 would hurt their chance of finding potential families by allowing adoption and foster placement services to discriminate based on religious beliefs or lack thereof, marriage status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. By legalizing discrimination, HB 836 would reduce the number of available foster and adoption families, causing the children to live without a loving, permanent home.

Currently, about 24% of adults are religiously unaffiliated, and atheists and agnostics make up about 7% of the total population. Therefore, even without considering the other categories of people affected, allowing foster placement agencies to discriminate on the basis of their religion will potentially exclude about a quarter of adults from providing a home for foster children, inevitably reducing the number of youth placed in loving, permanent homes.

The results from other states bear this out. In every state that has passed this type of legislation, the number of adoptions is decreasing. This is proof that discrimination reduces the number of potential adoptive parents and in turns reduces the number of at-risk children with forever homes.

HB 836 must not be allowed to put the religious beliefs of a few placement agencies above the well-being of these at-risk children. The children must come first.