The San Antonio City Council should reject a proposal to expend nearly half a million dollars to support an anti-abortion campaign, says the FFRF Action Fund, the legislative arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The City Council is considering devoting $438,000 in its proposed budget for 2024 to install 12 “baby boxes” at fire stations throughout the city. The city would be partnering with and purchasing these baby boxes from the evangelical Christian organization Safe Haven Baby Boxes. The organization preaches that “Christ will give you the path.” Any time a baby box is installed, the local government and Safe Haven typically host a “Christian blessing ceremony.”
Safe Haven Baby Boxes is also reportedly connected to other overtly religious organizations. Since being founded in 2016, the organization has only seen a comparatively small number of “surrenders.” Most of its focus is referring women to so-called deceptive “crisis pregnancy centers” and speaking at schools and universities based on its religious perspective.
FFRF points out that these boxes are legally problematic, as well. Is the infant being surrendered without coercion? Do birth parents realize they are terminating parental rights, and in some states could be liable to criminal prosecution? Children abandoned anonymously have no information on their origins or medical history, including drug use during the pregnancy.
While FFRF Action Fund applauds the council’s desire to take increased steps toward ensuring the health and safety of surrendered infants in San Antonio, it is constitutionally problematic and unnecessary for the council to partner with and give funds to an evangelical religious organization to do so. The best way to avoid the tragedy of abandoned newborns is to ensure planned parenthood, necessitating that women and other pregnant persons are able to decide for themselves whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ stance goes against the view of the majority of Texan voters, six in 10 of whom say they support abortion being “available in all or most cases,” with only 11 percent favoring a total ban on abortion.
“The government cannot subsidize religion or dispense special financial benefits to religious organizations or houses of worship,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence writes. “It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government cannot favor religion.”
While in recent years, government funding to religious groups for secular purposes through neutral grant programs has been upheld, it appears that this funding is coming directly from the city’s budget at the request of a council member. Additionally, there is no evidence that the council considered other organizations that can provide similar services.
Further, the City Council represents a diverse community that includes both nonreligious and minority religious citizens. Spending nearly half a million dollars on purchases that directly fund an evangelical Christian organization sends the message to all nonreligious and non-Christian citizens that they are outsiders and disfavored members of their community. This needlessly excludes those who are among the 37 percent of Americans who are non-Christians, including the nearly one in three adult Americans (29 percent) who are religiously unaffiliated.
FFRF Action Fund is urging that the city council refrain from partnering with Safe Haven Baby Boxes or any other religious organization in order to adhere to the principle of separation between state and church.
“These ‘baby boxes’ do not address the real problem, which is unwanted pregnancy and being forced to give birth without consent,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “If the city wants to reduce the number of infant surrenders, the best solution is to demand the repeal of the Texas abortion ban.”
Read the full letter from FFRF Action Fund to the San Antonio mayor here.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.