The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

"Can the Government Deny Foster Parent Applications Due to Religious Beliefs?"

An American Enterprise Institute "Are You Kidding Me?" podcast episode, with Naomi Schaefer Riley, Ian Rowe, and me.


I much enjoyed the conversation, and I hope you will, too. From the AEI summary:

James and Gail Blais were barred from fostering their one-year-old great-granddaughter due to their religious beliefs. During the foster parent application process, the Washington state government led the Blaises through hypothetical questions assessing how they would respond if their great-granddaughter were to identify as homosexual or transgender at some point in the future. As Seventh-Day Adventists, the Blaises said they would certainly continue to love the child, but they could not support the child's decision in that circumstance. This raises an important question: can state governments deny foster applications due to the religious beliefs of potential foster parents?

In this episode, Naomi and Ian are joined by Eugene Volokh, an expert in first amendment law and professor of law at UCLA, to explore how state adoption authorities can ensure the well-being of foster children while respecting the religious beliefs of prospective foster parents. Volokh notes that because the Blaises were applying to care for a relative, and the decision to deny their application was based on responses to hypothetical scenarios, this case signals a particularly concerning overreach by the Washington state government.