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Adoption is arguably one of the Christian social ministries most central to evangelical theology. It has—to a greater extent than church positions on issues such as abortion and marriage—avoided becoming entangled in politics. Until now.

A foster dad's court challenge to a Florida law banning adoption by gays and lesbians has made headlines in recent months. So has a proposed same-sex marriage law in the District of Columbia that the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington warned could force it to cancel its social service programs, including adoption.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Pete Stark introduced a bill in October dubbed the "Every Child Deserves a Family Act." The California Democrat's proposal immediately drew the ire of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRF). IRF claims the proposed law could run "roughshod over the convictions of many faith-based adoption agencies" and "require every state to forbid every agency that it licenses from preferring mother-father families over gay families or single parents."

"Obviously, it's becoming a political issue," Marquette University political scientist John McAdams said of adoption.

"The fundamental problem is that secular elites—who basically don't like religious people at all—aren't willing to make any concessions at all to the consciousnesses of religious people," said McAdams, an evangelical Christian and Republican. In such a climate, children needing homes take a back seat to politics, he said.

McAdams points to Massachusetts as a prime example: In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston stopped its 103-year-old adoption service rather than comply with a state law that made it illegal to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples when placing ...

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January 2010

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