South Carolina fights back against ACLU attempt to shutter faith-based foster agencies Governor’s office fights to keep partnerships with faith-based ministries
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – South Carolina’s 3,500+ foster kids need loving homes. Governor Henry McMaster has asked a federal district court to protect the state’s right to partner with private faith-based foster care ministries that provide loving homes for children in need. In Rogers v. Health and Human Services, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Governor Henry McMaster to penalize South Carolina for working with religious foster agencies that serve children in need.
“Over 3,500 of South Carolina’s children are currently in foster care and we need all the help we can get to see that they are placed in loving homes,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “This lawsuit is a shortsighted attack against every South Carolinian’s constitutionally-protected religious liberty. We will continue to fight against any attempt to stop our private partners from being able to help provide these critical services simply because they choose to do so in accordance with their faith.”
South Carolina’s Department of Social Services works directly with families seeking to foster and adopt children in crisis situations, serving children and families without regard to religion, race, disability, sex, or sexual orientation. The state also partners with an array of diverse private agencies that help recruit and retain more parents for foster children who need a safe place to live. Gov. McMaster issued an executive order protecting the religious freedom of foster agencies in South Carolina. Out of dozens of private agencies serving South Carolina, one agency, Miracle Hill Ministries, chooses to partner with families who share its Christian faith. Miracle Hill has an 80-year tradition of recruiting and serving families. Upon learning about Miracle Hill’s foster parent requirements, the ACLU used social media to recruit individuals who did not share Miracle Hill’s faith to apply to foster with the agency. Rather than reach out to any other agency or the state of South Carolina, which supports and licenses foster families directly, the ACLU sued South Carolina and the federal government, alleging that allowing Miracle Hill to serve foster families violated the law.
“South Carolina’s efforts to protect all avenues of foster care should be applauded, not forced into a courtroom,” said Miles Coleman, partner at Nelson Mullins. “Too many places around the country have shuttered religious foster care agencies, making it harder to find children a home. South Carolina is doing all it can to prevent that.”
Thankfully, the law does not allow the government to exclude foster agencies because of their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court recently affirmed this in Fulton v. Philadelphia, ruling unanimously that the law protected Catholic Social Services’ right to stick to its religious beliefs and continue serving foster children in Philadelphia. Just as in Fulton, South Carolina licenses many private agencies. This provides families looking to open their homes to children in need with numerous opportunities to find an agency that will be a good fit, while also protecting the religious freedom of all South Carolinians.
“Faith-based agencies are effective at placing children in loving homes, and the Supreme Court unanimously protected their rights,” said Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “This attempt to shutter faith-based agencies means fewer choices for foster parents and fewer homes for kids. South Carolina decided it could do better, and it shouldn’t be hauled into court for doing the right thing.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at email@example.com or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.