This week, when U.S. Senator Mike Enzi introduced S. 2706, his Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, he declared it to be, “A bill to ensure that organizations with religious or moral convictions are allowed to continue to provide services for children”.
Look at the actual text of S. 2706, however, and you’ll see something quite different. The purpose of the legislation, in its own words, is “To prohibit governmental entities from discriminating or taking an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider declines to provide a child welfare service”.
What S. 2706 actually does is to allow organizations that call themselves child welfare service providers to not provide children with welfare services. Enzi wants to make it U.S. law that child welfare service providers don’t have to help children if they don’t want to.
How does that make any sense?
No one is trying to prohibit religious child welfare service providers from helping children. What’s happening is that religious child welfare organizations are seeking federal government support, while insisting that they shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as non-religious child welfare service providers.
If religious child welfare service providers want to refuse to provide help to children, then they have the power to do that. They can go and run their own service programs without federal government support. However, if the federal government is providing financial and logistical support to these organizations, then it has the right to impose rules about how that support is used. Applying those rules equally to religious and non-religious service providers isn’t discrimination.
Discrimination in child welfare services takes place when religious organizations take public resources for the purpose of helping children, and then restrict access to those public resources according to their own religious views. Discrimination takes place when religious child welfare service organizations insist upon the right to deny federal government assistance to children.
With S. 2706, Mike Enzi is trying to protect discrimination, not to end it.