Freshta Tori Jan is a first-year bilingual student from Kabul, Afghanistan, now living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has been greatly involved in various communities through the YWCA, Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders, the City of Grand Rapids, Students Against Sexual Violence as well as other organizations. She serves as a mentor for other youth and as a public speaker at events including the Department of Civil Rights, Ecumenical Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill, the YWCA, radio stations, news platforms as well as other local organizations for marginalized groups. Tori Jan’s commitment to leadership from a young age has enabled her to advocate for human rights and other social issues facing today’s society.

As an ethnic, religious, and gender minority in Afghanistan, Tori Jan was persecuted, a state which she still feels even to this day, though she no longer resides in the country. Her family members faced kidnappings and daily murder attempts on the bus, on the way to school, in the work place, and beyond. Tori Jan’s school was shut down by the Taliban, and many of her friends were murdered and shot. Tori Jan’s journey through poverty, terrorism, and different forms of injustice have enabled her to be a voice for those who are not able to share their stories and those who are not able to receive the opportunities she has sought. She believes in empowering youth in order to bring change and be the leaders of today and tomorrow.

Tori Jan majors in International Relations and Pre-Law at Calvin College. She plans to pursue internships at the United Nations, and American Enterprise Institute, among other organizations in DC. After graduation, she will attend law school to equip herself to advocate for international human rights.


Adoption: Agencies vs. Same-Sex Couples

An excerpt of “Adoption: Agencies vs. Same-sex Couples”

To: Christopher Dolan, Executive Washington Times Editor Oct. 15, 2018 POLS 212 – American Public Policy

From: Jonathan Winkle, Max Ziskie, Freshta Tori Jan, Rahel Hatch, Ryan Heckaman
by Freshta Tori Jan

I. Introduction

In the United States today, there are nearly half a million children in foster care with 100,000 awaiting adoption. At the same time, there are many willing adoptive families. Private religious agencies have a long history of assisting states with adopting children. In recent years, however, widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage has complicated the role of religious agencies. Many faith-based groups wish to place children in traditional marriage homes, while other groups—particularly the LGBT community—believe this is discriminatory and should not be allowed.

The need for adoption continues to grow, as does public acceptance of same-sex marriage. This creates a growing conflict between the religious right of adoption agencies and public opinion and public policy. This policy report considers the relevant issues and examines the two main positions in this debate: advocating for and against the right of religious agencies. The report then ends with a policy recommendation.

II. Background Information

Religious adoption agencies’ religious right to discriminate when selecting potential parents has become a recently contested issue. The 2015 US Supreme Court case Obergefell vs. Hodges, decided that same-sex couples were entitled to the right to marry with the same terms and conditions as a marriage of opposite-sex couples. This also entails all the rights and responsibilities of an opposite-sex marriage. Public approval of gay marriage has also increased significantly. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 60% of Americans and 75% of American millennials have a favorable view of gay marriage. Inevitably, the nationwide legitimacy and more widespread acceptance of same-sex marriages has led to many same-sex couples seeking to adopt children or serve as foster parents. Same-sex couple adoptions have risen from 6,500 couples in 2000 to 22,000 in 2010. The final ban on same-sex adoption was lifted in 2016 when a US District Court ruled that Mississippi’s blanket ban on same-sex adoption violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The United States has a long history of religious agencies playing a role in adoption. An important first step towards religious agencies selecting families as prospective adoptive parents or foster parents came in 1891 when the state of Michigan became the first state to require that “[the judge] shall be satisfied as to the good moral character, and the ability to support and educate such child, and of the suitableness of the home, or the person or persons adopting such child.” In 1898, the Catholic Home Bureau was organized in New York and became the first Catholic agency to start placing children in homes rather than orphanages, which soon became a trend in other cities as well. Specialized adoption agencies then began to form between 1910 and 1930, including religious agencies like the Free Synagogue Child Adoption Committee, a Jewish group located in New York. Interestingly enough, the 1944 US Supreme Court case Prince vs Massachusetts was decided against Sarah Prince, a Jehovah’s Witness who was the guardian of a girl who was passing out religious literature on Prince’s instruction. With this case the Supreme Court gave the government the right to limit parental controls of parents or guardians in order to protect “the general interest in youth's well being,” while the minority dissent asserted that this was an infringement on religious freedom.

The issue of religious agencies’ right to deny adoptions to same-sex couples has been framed as an issue of religious freedom by supporters of the adoption agencies and an issue of civil rights or tolerance by supporters of same-sex couples.

Seven states have passed laws that allow religious adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples and other potential adoptive parents that don’t meet the religious criteria of the adoption agency. Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, Virginia, and Michigan previously had laws protecting the religious freedom of religious adoption agencies, and Oklahoma and Kansas’ state legislatures passed bills to enact similar laws this May. Michigan’s chapter of the ACLU has taken the state to court over its law regarding adoption and the case is still ongoing. On the other hand, there are many cases of religious agencies shutting down when they were denied any state funding while they continued to deny adoptions to same-sex couples. To name a few, Catholic Charities of Boston shut down its adoption services in 2006, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C was deemed an ineligible partner for foster care and adoption in 2010 due to their stance on same-sex adoption, and Catholic Charities affiliates in the state of Illinois closed down in 2011 when they were denied state money while they refused to adopt to same-sex couples.

IV. Policy Recommendation

Based on the current pending legislation, we recommend that the executive editor of the Washington Times takes a position on the side of the adoption agencies. We support the House of Representatives approved AMENDMENT TO LABOR, HHS, EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 201 defending adoption agencies.

Taking this stance shows a support of the First Amendment right to freely exercise an individual or organization’s religious beliefs. While there is a case to be made about this practice allowing for institutions to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, the issue is one of religious freedom. In this case, forcing the adoption agencies to provide services that go against their religious belief is a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. The notion that an institution like a religious adoption agency forfeits its right to free religious expression as soon as it accepts public funding is false, as there are countless examples in the United States of openly religious institutions receiving government funding.

Through providing information on this issue, the editor provides the staff and readers of the Washington Times with a better understanding of why President Donald Trump is nominating people like Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the position of Supreme Court Justice. This will help the public understand that the President and his administration is selecting a certain type of judge as nominees for Supreme Court Justice and US Federal Court Justice; they want judges who will take a conservative view on upholding the liberties that are enshrined in the United States Constitution. To be more specific, the Trump administration wants judges on the bench with a conservative viewpoint on protecting the religious liberties of individual Americans and organizations that have established religious beliefs.