Conservative group Eagle Forum of Alabama is taking a stand for families across Alabama — opposing a bill that would require church day cares to be licensed and regulated by the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which they say encroaches on religious freedom.
Currently, faith-based daycares are exempt from state regulations and standards. But HB277, the Child Care Safety Act, endeavors to change that.
“HB 277 removes religious liberty protections and requires state regulation of religious institutions,” said Deborah Love, executive director of Eagle Forum of Alabama. “HB 277 will reduce positive options for Alabama’s families who rely on these institutions every day.
“HB 277 at its core is government overreach into the most important private institutions in our state.”
According to Eagle Forum, licensed exempt day care providers are not exempt from child safety laws and regulations. All child care providers in Alabama are either licensed exempt or licensed. To become licensed exempt the provider must file appropriate paperwork with DHR including immunization records.
“Opposition to HB277 is about protecting children by protecting some of the best, safe, and positive child care options for children in Alabama,” said Eagle Forum Alabama. “If hard working Alabamians no longer have high quality and low cost options, it harms children. Many families will no longer have the opportunities and options they rely on for their families.”
Under current law, DHR provides the following list of requirements for license exempt facilities:
- Notice that the child care program is an integral part of a local church
- Notice that intent to operate a child care program has been given to the appropriate health departments so that facilities will be inspected to meet standards
- Inspection by fire department at least once a year
- Inspection by the Alabama Department of Public Health at least twice a year
- Notice to the department certifying health inspection reports, immunizations, and medical forms for all staff and children.
- Notice to parents of staff qualifications, pupil-student ratio, discipline policies, type of curriculum, religious teachings, and type of lunch program.
- Parents required to sign affidavits about licensed-exempt status
- Church/facility must submit affidavits of notification to DHR
- Must follow all state and federal laws
The bill’s bipartisan sponsors Tuskegee-Democrat Rep. Pebblin Warren and Jacksonville-Republican Rep. K.L. Brown, along with 18 republican and 14 democratic colleagues, think the bill is necessary saying some exempt childcare centers have violated legal standards of care.
But Eagle Forum says rather than punishing everyone, the state should focus on punishing bad actors who are breaking current law.
“The government has an interest in protecting safety of all Alabamians but that does not mean the government should control private religious institutions,” said Eagle Forum. “Reasonable regulations and criminal laws already punish bad actors. State agencies already retain the ability to regulate and inspect in needed situations.”
Alabama is one of only seven states in the nation that has a religious exemption for childcare facilities.