COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster had a request regarding faith-based foster care providers from an Obama administration regulation make an exception for groups in the Palmetto State.
The regulation initially said that faith-based foster and adoption groups could not discriminate against families who wanted to adopt but did not adhere to the agency's beliefs and still accept federal money to fund their operations. Those beliefs could mean that families of different religions or sexual orientations could be denied a chance to foster or adopt children if they went against private organization's beliefs.
In a statement released Wednesday, the ruling made by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted the governor’s request. It says, in part:
Gov. McMaster joined the fight against this policy when a Greenville faith-based center, Miracle Hill Ministries, whose requirement for Christians-only became a contested issue.
"I will never stop fighting for your religious freedom. The generous foster families at Miracle Hill Ministries make sacrifices to protect our vulnerable children, but the government cannot force them to sacrifice their faith. Will you stand with us?" McMaster wrote in February 2018.
“We have approved South Carolina’s request to protect religious freedom and preserve high-quality foster care placement options for children,” said Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for ACF. “Faith-based organizations that provide foster care services not only perform a great service for their communities, they are exercising a legally-protected right to practice their faith through good works. Our federal agency should not – and, under the laws adopted by Congress, cannot – drive faith-motivated foster care providers out of the business of serving children without a compelling government interest, especially now that child welfare systems are stretched thin as a result of the opioid epidemic.”
In response, the ACLU tweeted: “The Governor of South Carolina asked @HHSGov for permission to discriminate against prospective adoptive and foster families based on their religious beliefs — and HHS just granted it. Children who are waiting for loving and supportive homes deserve better than this.”
In another response, the American Principles Project said that HHS responded to the “onerous, discriminatory regulation implemented by the Obama administration.”
Terry Schilling, executive director at American Principles Project, released the following statement applauding HHS for approving the exception for South Carolina faith-based foster care providers and urging further progress toward dismantling the discriminatory Obama-era regulation:
“Just nine days prior to President Trump’s inauguration, the Obama administration implemented a discriminatory regulation that made it the policy of the federal government to viciously discriminate against faith-based foster care providers.
“Today, HHS took an important first step toward reversing that shameful policy by providing the state of South Carolina with an official exception to the regulation, allowing these charities the ability to continue serving poor children who desperately need homes without having to violate key tenets of their faith. HHS also made it clear that the position of the Trump administration is that the Obama-era regulation is in direct conflict with the law.
“We applaud HHS for their effort to protect faith-based foster care providers, and we urge HHS and the Trump administration to continue their efforts to undo this discriminatory regulation in order to preserve the freedom of these providers to continue their important work.”
United States Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) released a statement on the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to protect the religious liberty of South Carolina’s faith-based foster care providers Thursday.