New York, NY, October 23, 2018 … ADL today urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reject a waiver requested by the State of South Carolina that would allow federally funded foster agencies to deny applications of Jewish and other foster parents on the basis of religion.
The waiver request was based on a local faith-based foster care agency, Miracle Hill Ministries, prospectively losing its federal funding because of the agency’s religious requirements for foster parents, which prohibit foster placement with non-Christian families. Miracle Hill reportedly rejected one local Jewish woman as a voluntary mentor for children, in a state where 4,600 children are already in foster care and an additional 1,500 children are seeking foster homes.
“It is immoral and grossly unjust for the federal government, South Carolina and taxpayers to support discrimination,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “We are deeply concerned that if South Carolina’s request for a waiver is approved, it will give other federally funded foster care agencies a green light to discriminate. No child should be denied a loving foster or adoptive home simply because a prospective parent is Jewish, Muslim, of another faith or LGBTQ.”
In a letter to Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, ADL warned that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), on which the waiver is based, “should not be interpreted to sanction discrimination,” pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Burrell v. Hobby Lobby, which rejected the use of RFRA as a vehicle to discriminate. The letter noted that taxpayer-funded discrimination could also violate federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, “by unconstitutionally advancing or endorsing the religious missions of faith-based foster care agencies.”
ADL has launched an online petition calling on the Trump Administration to ensure that federal funds are not being used to promote religious discrimination in foster care.