Recently USA Today released an article concerning adoption agencies and Catholic charities. It was basically in defense of religious bigotry because "at lease they are helping children get homes." Of course, it ignores the families who are being turned away for not being the right religion or having lifestyles that the church considers sinful. Warning, if you go searching for this article, you will bump into my comment where I am not exactly being incognito so you will learn my "true identity". I made the following comment:
The problem lies in that in some states, all the private agencies ARE religious. So you have the choice of working with either the state (who focuses primarly on foster care and reunification) or a private religious agency (who does both foster and adoption, sometimes focusing on babies). And if those agencies refuse to work with you because you aren't religious or because you are some variation of "sinful" in their eyes, then you are just out of luck. That makes me question whether they really care about finding children homes or if they are more concerned about conversions and maintaining their religion. In my state there are several agencies that require prospective parents to sign "statements of faith". A problem for me since I am not religious. This left us with only two choices of private agencies, both of which are still religious, but don't seem to care so much about my personal faith. We adopted a teen in April and I find it appalling that any child would be denied an opportunity to have a family because someone's personal life doesn't line up with a religion. Bigotry is still bigotry, even if the organization is doing something charitable.
Someone, of course, replied with a "But what about standards? Shouldn't there be standards?" Sure. Absolutely. My husband and I had to do a 30 hour training course mandatory for all foster parents whether they plan to foster or adopt. We also have to do an additional 24 hours of training over the 2 year period that our license is open. Our home was inspected by a case worker who went through our drawers and asked us dozens of questions. We had to fill out a 30 page questionnaire that asked questions about our philosophy of parenting, what our relationships were like with our parents & siblings, what our support network looked like, hobbies, any infertility issues, and even our sex lives. I had to hand over tax returns and list out, in detail, our monthly budget. We had to be fingerprinted and then state and federal background checks were run. (in some states you have to pass a drug test) In our home, which was inspected by a case worker, we have to have two fire extinguishers, a double-locking case for all medication, a locking case for the refrigerator, knives in a drawer, and an escape ladder in the kid's bedroom. I had to have a fire inspection and escape routes hanging up in our house. Dangerous chemicals have to be locked up. On top of all that, we have to fill out a mountain of paperwork each time our child went to the doctor, dentist, hospital, or took any medication, of which he has several. A social worker then came once a month to review our paperwork and to ask more questions to be sure that we weren't abusing our kid and were meeting his needs. Most biological parents will never have to go through all that to have a kid. So yeah, I would say there are a lot of standards in place. Do crappy parents still slip through the cracks? Sure. Some of those people lie because they know how to swindle people. Some may start out as decent parents or thought they would be good parents and then quickly discover that they aren't, and then instead of quitting the system, they stay in and just become abusive. Those people are problems, but not the ones my commentor was referring to.
No, he is suggesting that the standard by which we judge someone as being a fit parent IS religion. That despite all the rigorous things that a foster/adoptive parent has to go through in order to be a parent, those aren't good enough if you don't worship God. And you know and I know that they only mean one particular God. They aren't going to accept a Muslim adopting at a Catholic adoption agency. I've been around the religious most of my life. I've heard this rhetoric before. I absolutely know that the aim, the goal, is not just to find families for kids, but also Christian families.
I also know that religion doesn't make a person a good parent. My mother, despite loving us dearly, was abusive when I was younger. She screamed at us all the time, called us names, and was verbally abusive. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, because I love both my parents dearly. Mom also resorted to hitting when angry and would aim at whatever was in reach, meaning that spankings often turned into getting hit on the arm, shoulder, back, head, or legs. Spankings were often done in anger and in the heat of the moment, which means instead of one or two swats you could get upwards of 12-15. Eventually my parents took some parenting classes and learned some techniques for better parenting and things got a lot better. But there are still some incidents that happened well into my teen years that we just don't talk about today. Incidents that most definitely would be considered abuse by anyone's standards. Religion didn't magically make my parents better at parenting. All it did was make them self-righteous about it. I got punished for being sinful, disobedient, or wicked. I was reminded that in Bible times rebellious kids like me would have been stoned. I was prayed over in church to remove the spirit of rebellion from me. Mine is not an isolated past. Most of my friends grew up in very similar environments. Between all the hugs and guidance and family times, there was also an underlying threat. It's why so many people justify and normalize spanking, because it happened to so many of us. And for the record, my husband is not a better parent than me simply due to his religion.
So no, religion should not be the standard in which we judge whether someone will be a fit parent. There are a billions of people on this planet who are religious and some of those are also some of the shittiest human beings you will ever meet. I had a friend at fifteen, who told me that her step-father was sexually abusing her. He ended up going to jail for 5 years because of it. He had also been a deacon at his church and was training to be a pastor. He would have passed any religious standards to adopt. Religion is probably the least reliable "standard" for deciding whether someone will be a fit parent.
With over 107,000 children in the US available for adoption and waiting for families, I find it criminal that any organization would deny them that opportunity based on personal opinion and bigotry. I absolutely believe those organizations that discriminate based on religion, sexual orientation, or marital status should not be tolerated, in the same way that we wouldn't tolerate them discriminating based on skin color. And I think atheists and other non-religious organizations need to start stepping up and creating organizations that are open to all. If religion, particularly Christianity, is going to dwindle and die, the non-religious must step up and fill those voids. We need humanist or even more interfaith organizations that will meet these great social needs. I'm afraid my gifts and talents do not lie in starting my own non-profit business, but I would definitely volunteer with and champion the cause of those organizations. We, the non-believers, HAVE to stop allowing the religious to dictate charity.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.