Thursday, November 16, 2023

Court Upholds Oregon's Rules for Approving Adoptive Parents Over Free Exercise and Free Speech Challenges

In Bates v. Pakseresht, (D OR, Nov. 14, 2023), an Oregon federal district court, in a 53-page opinion, rejected plaintiff's challenge to the state's denial of her application to be certified to adopt children through the Oregon Department of Human Services.  Plaintiff was denied certification because, consistent with her Christian religious beliefs, she would not agree to support an adoptive child's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Rejecting plaintiff's free exercise claim, the court said in part:

A willingness to take in an LGBTQ+ child, but disavow their identity, cannot by analogy be compared to a business owner's willingness to provide some services, but not others, to LGBTQ+ individuals. To make such a claim demonstrates a lack of understanding of the importance of providing a child with the holistic support and care required to produce well-rounded and confident adults....

The court also rejected plaintiff's free speech claim, saying in part:

[T]he issue in this case is not that plaintiff is seeking to provide religious instruction to her child. She is seeking to provide religious instruction to a child in the care and custody of the state. She does not possess the same rights as a parent in this situation because the state is the de facto parent. Although plaintiff's ultimate goal is adoption, she is seeking a certification that grants her only the opportunity to house and care for a child under the state's umbrella of protection.