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I’m a Christian and I'm Suing My State Because It Refused to Let Me Adopt Children

State officials rejected my application, excluding me from adoption because I refused to abandon my religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Oregon denied an adoption application for Jessica Bates because she wouldn’t adopt the state’s radical gender ideology.

"Those are my children."

The message was simple, and there was no mistaking it was from God.

I had been listening to a radio broadcast while driving my kids to school one morning and heard the story of a man who adopted a child from foster care. I had to stop for a minute; I knew God was speaking to me – revealing His heart for children who don’t have parents to love them.

I couldn’t shake what I heard. Even though I’m raising five children of my own, I knew my family could help children find a forever home. Our family has been through a lot, and together, we’re now on the other side of unimaginable loss.

My husband was killed in a car collision six years ago. After walking through that grief with my children, we decided we wanted to open our home to kids in need and give back a little of the support and love we received in the wake of tragedy. We decided to adopt a sibling pair to ensure they could stay together and have someone else in the family who could fully understand and relate to them. And after considering international adoption, we decided to look no further than our own backyard here in southeastern Oregon, where kids are waiting to be wanted and loved.

So I began the application process to adopt a child from Oregon’s foster care system. But I was in for quite a shock when state officials denied my application because of my faith.

The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) requires that individuals seeking to adopt "respect, accept, and support" the gender identity and gender expression of any child the department could place in an applicant’s home. State officials demanded that I agree to use a child’s preferred pronouns, possibly take a child to Pride parades, and even potentially take an adolescent child to receive dangerous pharmaceutical interventions like hormone shots.

During my application process, I alerted ODHS that I would happily love and accept any child, regardless of their gender identity or expression, but I cannot say or do something that goes against my faith. But because state officials disapprove of my religious beliefs on human sexuality, they rejected my application, excluding me from adoption because I refused to abandon my religious beliefs.

At the same time, Oregon accommodates people of other religious and cultural backgrounds and tries to pair children with families who are well suited to each other. Devout Jews need not agree to accommodate foreign gods because some children wish to erect a family shrine to Hindu gods. And a family that hunts need not refrain from eating meat because some children are vegan.

The message was crystal clear: Oregon officials exclude people of faith from accessing any child welfare service because of our beliefs about the differences between men and women. According to the Oregon agency, people who hold the state’s view on gender identity are fit to parent, while those with religiously informed views that are different aren’t even qualified to babysit newborn infants.

Oregon prides itself on fostering diversity – except when it comes to making space for those who disagree with the state’s views on sexual orientation and gender identity.

State officials won’t even let me adopt kids who share my religious beliefs and would love to grow up in our household surrounded by siblings excited to welcome them into our family and worship together on Sundays. The state’s policy makes a sweeping claim that all persons like me who hold certain beliefs – beliefs held by millions of Americans from diverse religious faiths – are categorically unfit to care for children. No one is allowed to hold a dissenting view under this state orthodoxy.

Well, they’re not done with this mother yet.

With the legal assistance of Alliance Defending Freedom, I’m suing the state of Oregon for putting politics above children. I only ask for the opportunity to help those in need, yet the state is excluding me on every level – because of my faith.

I’m also suing because Oregon is depriving children of loving families and forever homes. We need more families willing to take in children, not fewer. When the government discriminates against people of faith from adoption and foster care, it’s children in need who suffer.

Kids deserve better than that. And that’s why I’m taking this stand. Oregon officials don’t get to pick and choose which religious or ideological views they prefer and which ones get shut out. The First Amendment protects my right to live out my faith without being penalized by the government.

My faith is what motivated me to pursue adopting and caring for orphans in the first place; all I’m seeking is the opportunity to love and care for them.

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom

ADF team members contributed to the writing and publication of this article.