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HB 3859: "Right of Conscience" or Right to Discriminate?
HB 3859 would allow a foster care provider to opt out of ANY contract requirement if it violates their religious beliefs. While the bill stipulates that an alternate provider must be found, the language of the bill is broad and vague. The bill fails to set out any process for identifying the need for alternative providers, even though the consequences for failing to locate alternative providers could be serious.
According to the testimony of the Attorney General's staff, immunizations are one of the services a provider could refuse to provide because of religious beliefs.
So the child won’t get vaccinated?
HB 3859 says DFPS has to make sure “someone else” takes the child to get vaccinated…even if that alternate provider doesn’t live in the same area of the state.
Does the foster provider have to pay for the alternate?
No, DFPS is liable for that cost. DFPS is not allowed to reduce payment to the provider who refused to meet the obligation in the first place—if they did, that provider could sue the state. In fact, the provider could sue the state if they even felt “threatened” that the state might take an adverse action, like reducing their payment.
How will DFPS know the foster provider didn’t get the child vaccinated?
Good question! Under HB 3859, the provider has NO obligation to tell anyone they object to vaccinations when they sign up. Hopefully the foster child will keep up with their vaccination schedule and call their caseworker if they miss a shot.
What services does a foster care provider contract include?
DFPS contracts include explicit instructions on children’s rights, pharmacy services, behavioral health, psychotropic medications, trauma informed care, minimum standards for nutrition, minimal standards for clothing, discipline, education, immunizations, travel, religious activities of the child’s choosing, facility requirements, and civil rights.
Under HB 3859, could a placement agency discriminate based on religion?
Yes, the bill would allow tax-funded providers to refuse families—or children—based on religion.
Does HB 3859 affect public schools?
Yes, it would overturn current policy that DFPS enroll foster children in public school. It would allow foster providers to place children in private, parochial, or other religious schools using taxpayer dollars.