South Carolina’s Republican governor has asked a federal court to protect the state’s right to partner with religious foster groups to provide homes for needy children.
Gov. Henry McMaster sent a letter following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the governor seeking to punish the state’s work with religious funding organizations.
“Over 3,500 children in South Carolina are currently in foster care and we need all the help we can get to ensure they are placed in loving homes“ McMaster said in the letter.
“This lawsuit is a short-sighted attack on every South Carolinian constitutionally protected freedom of religion. We will continue to resist any attempt to prevent our private partners from assisting in the delivery of these critical services simply because they choose to do so in accordance with their beliefs,” he added.
The South Carolina Department of Human Services works directly with families who wish to foster and adopt children in need. McMaster issued an executive order in 2018 protecting the religious freedom of caregivers, including Miracle Hill Ministries, who choose to partner with families who share their Christian faith.
Becket Law, the rights group representing Miracle Hill’s 80-year tradition of recruiting and mentoring families, alleges the ACLU used social media to recruit people who didn’t share Miracle Hill’s beliefs to apply to the agency for foster care to apply. The ACLU sued South Carolina and the federal government, alleging that allowing Miracle Hill to serve in foster care violated the law.
“Faith-based agencies are effective in placing children in loving homes, and the Supreme Court has unanimously protected their rights.” said Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “This attempt to shut down faith-based agencies means fewer choices for foster parents and fewer homes for children. South Carolina decided it could do better and it shouldn’t be taken to court for doing the right thing.”
Becket noted this in a statement recently upheld by the Supreme Court Fulton versus Philly to protect the right of Catholic social services to hold their religious beliefs and continue to care for foster children in Philadelphia. South Carolina licenses many private agencies that seek to help children in need while protecting the religious freedom of the people of South Carolina.
Miles Coleman, a partner at Nelson Mullins, also echoed Becket’s statement.
“South Carolina’s efforts to protect all avenues of foster care should be applauded and not forced into a courtroom.” said Mullins. “Too many places across the country have closed religious foster homes, making it harder for children to find homes. South Carolina is doing everything it can to prevent that.”
The Miracle Hill controversy has been the focus of legal disputes since 2018. Four years ago, the ministry had been criticized for refusing to work with LGBTQ volunteers while still receiving government funding.
The ACLU’s lawsuit was first filed in 2019 Rogers v US Department of Health and Human Services et al.