Alliance Defending Freedom, the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life, has filed a federal lawsuit against Oregon state officials on behalf of mother of five, Jessica Bates, for denying her application for adoption because of her religious beliefs.

Bates, a devout Christian and widowed mother of five, is seeking to adopt a pair of siblings in her state. However, her application to provide a loving, stable home to any child in need was denied because the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) requires that people seeking to adopt must “respect, accept, and support” the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of any child who ODHS could place in the applicant’s home. 

This guidance necessitates that parents agree to use a child’s preferred pronouns, take a child to Pride parades, or facilitate an adolescent’s access to medical interventions like puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones if the child so requests. For Jessica, adhering to these guidelines would mean compromising her religious beliefs, which view human identity and sexuality as bestowed by God and cannot be changed by personal choice.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, director of the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives, says Oregon’s policy amounts to an ideological litmus test. “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,” he says. 

In the lawsuit,  Bates v. Pakseresht, ADF attorneys attest that when Jessica stood her ground about her religious beliefs, the Department rejected her application for not meeting its “adoption home standards.” Further, the suit accuses Oregon of “inconsistently enforcing” its adoption policy. They allege that not every applicant is required to show that they are a suitable placement for any child. The lawsuit states,“A family that hunts need not give up meat eating because some children are vegans. Jews need not accommodate foreign gods because some children desire a home with a Hindu shrine. In the end, the only group excluded from the process up front are those with religious beliefs like Jessica’s. Conservative Christians need not apply.”

Alliance Defending Freedom was launched in 1994 by more than 30 prominent Christian leaders who saw the need for a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom. Since then, Alliance Defending Freedom have played various roles in 72 Supreme Court victories, and since 2011, they have directly represented parties in 14 victories at the Supreme Court.

ADF Church Alliance and ADF Ministry Alliance provide legal help for churches and ministries to protect their religious and First Amendment rights. ADF’s international division, ADF International, advocates for the fundamental dignity and inherent freedom of all people, with 92 team members engaging at the highest levels of law and governance in over 104 countries worldwide. 

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