Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston v. HHS

Becket Role:
Counsel
Case Start Date:
October 31, 2019
Deciding Court:
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Original Court:
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Practice Area(s):
,

Case Snapshot

Over 25,000 children are waiting for a forever family in the Texas foster care system. Motivated by their Catholic faith, the people of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston care for the poor, the widowed, and the immigrant. The Archdiocese would like to do more to help address the great need for foster families in its community. But a 2016 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation is preventing the Archdiocese from helping Texas foster kids, harming children who are still waiting for a home and family. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the State of Texas are challenging this harmful rule, urging the court to allow faith-based foster care providers to serve the underserved, and care for vulnerable populations in accord with their deeply held religious beliefs.

Status

On October 31, 2019, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the State of Texas filed a complaint in federal court challenging a regulation that effectively bars some faith-based organizations from helping to unite vulnerable children with loving families. The case is currently pending in federal district court in Galveston, Texas.

Case Summary

Caring for the poor, the widow, and the immigrant

Following Catholic teaching, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston cares for the poor, the widowed, and the immigrant, providing critical, life-saving services through its ministries to hundreds of thousands of people in need every year. The Archdiocese and its vital ministries are driven by their Roman Catholic faith to care for those in need. The people they serve are of all creeds and backgrounds, including many living in poverty. In 2018, its ministries gave over 25,000 meals to seniors, provided over $10 million in disaster-recovery aid, and filed nearly 4,000 immigration petitions on behalf of refugees and immigrants.

A regulation standing in the way of helping children in need

Despite the Archdiocese’s many efforts to serve the underserved in its community, there is still a glaring crisis in the State of Texas. Thousands of vulnerable children wait to be placed in loving homes, but there are too few families to take all of them in. The Archdiocese would like to do more to help address the great need for foster families in its community. But a 2016 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation is preventing the Archdiocese from helping Texas foster kids, harming children who are still waiting for a home and family. The regulation requires religious foster care agencies to place children with same-sex couples even if doing so would go against their religious beliefs. This also contradicts a Texas law allowing agencies to refer couples to other agencies if they are unable to partner with them for religious reasons.

Many prospective foster families choose to work with faith-based organizations because of their shared beliefs and values. But some state and local governments are using this 2016 HHS regulation as justification for targeting religious agencies. Amid a nationwide foster care crisis, this regulation limits the number of agencies that can care for foster children in need, forcing organizations—like the Archdiocese—with the skills, resources, and desire to help to remain on the sidelines. The Archdiocese is seeking to grow, not limit, the number of foster families available to the orphans of Southeast Texas. Ending the regulation will strike a balance ensuring that all couples (including same-sex couples) can adopt, and all agencies (including Catholic agencies) can help broker foster and adoption placements. This is in the best interest of Texas’ foster children.

The Archdiocese puts children first

That’s why, on October 31, 2019, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston partnered with the State of Texas to challenge the 2016 HHS regulation. While the Department of Health & Human Services subsequently announced that it is considering changes to the regulation, laws in this area can take years to go into force, and there is no assurance that they will. Therefore the Archdiocese and Texas are continuing to pursue immediate relief for the children of Texas.