Lawsuit: Oregon State Officials Deny Woman’s Adoption Application Because of Her Christian Religious Beliefs

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a federal lawsuit last week against the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) on behalf of a woman whose application to adopt siblings from foster care was denied because her Christian faith beliefs do not allow her to agree to support the “sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression” of children placed in her home.

“Oregon’s policy amounts to an ideological litmus test: people who hold secular or ‘progressive’ views on sexual orientation and gender identity are eligible to participate in child welfare programs, while people of faith with religiously informed views are disqualified because they don’t agree with the state’s orthodoxy,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, who runs the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives.

“The government can’t exclude certain communities of faith from foster care and adoption services because the state doesn’t like their particular religious beliefs,” Scruggs added.

Jessica Bates, a widowed single mother of five who sought to adopt siblings from foster care, informed ODHS during her application process that she would accept any child but could not comply with the state’s sexual orientation and gender identity policies that violated her Christian faith beliefs, such as requiring adoptive parents to use a child’s preferred pronouns or consent to life-altering transgender drugs or surgeries.


“As such, ODHS’s policy penalizes Bates for her religious views, compels her to speak words that violate her beliefs, and deprives her of equal protection of the law because of her faith,” ADF argues.

The nonprofit legal organization that seeks to protect religious freedom and parental rights provided further details about Bates, who lost her husband in a car accident six years ago, and whose children range in age from 10 to 17:

Inspired by the story of a man who adopted a child from foster care, Bates felt a calling to follow the biblical teaching to care for orphans. She seeks to adopt a sibling pair, who are generally harder to place. State officials, however, rejected her application for failing to “meet the adoption home standards” and excluded her from accessing any child welfare service because she refused to abandon her religious beliefs.

ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse said Oregon’s policy amounts to one that claims people with Christian beliefs are not fit to parent children:

Oregon’s policy makes a sweeping claim that all persons who hold certain religious beliefs—beliefs held by millions of Americans from diverse religious faiths—are categorically unfit to care for children. That’s simply not true. Oregon is putting its political agenda above the needs of countless children who would be happy to grow up in a loving, Christian home like Jessica’s.

“We urge the court to remind the state of its constitutional and moral obligations and reaffirm Jessica’s First Amendment right to live out her faith without being penalized by the government,” Widmalm-Delphonse added.

The case is Bates v. Pakseresht, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Pendleton Division.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photos “Jessica Bates” and “Jessica Bates with her Children” by Alliance Defending Freedom


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