Written by Don Byrd

Americans United filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging the Trump Administration’s waiver that allows federally funded religious child placement agencies in South Carolina to discriminate in providing services. The recently announced policy means that some otherwise qualified couples can be denied foster and adoption placement by a program paid for by the federal government simply because of their religious identity. 

As the BJC’s Amanda Tyler explained, the policy change is “dramatic and troubling,” and “shows more concern for the providers than children in need and willing foster parents.”

The lawsuit argues “it s unconstitutional for government-funded agencies to discriminate against prospective foster parents and volunteers based on their religion.” The complaint also alleges that the Department of Health and Human Services did not follow proper procedure in implementing the waiver.

Here is an excerpt:

[B]y permitting foster-care child-placement agencies, such as Miracle Hill, to put their own religious preferences ahead of the best interests of the children when providing state and federally funded foster-care services, the U.S. government and the State of South Carolina harm vulnerable children by denying them access to loving families, while also harming those loving families, like the Maddonna family, by subjecting them to discrimination on the basis of their religious identities, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and basic decency.

The case is Maddonna v. Dept. of HHS. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a lawmaker who has introduced legislation that would have a similar effect, explained proudly that yes, his bill will let state-funded agencies to discriminate on the basis of religion. “By definition it is discriminatory. Religions discriminate against nonmember of their religion.” That may be true, but, by definition, an American government does not discriminate. Religious agencies that wish to act as an extension of the government should not be permitted to use the government’s resources in a way that discriminates based on religious identity.

For more on this issue, see the statement on the HHS policy issued last month by BJC executive Director Amanda Tyler.