In a final rule issued Jan. 7, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revised a 2016 rule by the Obama administration that had required faith-based child welfare providers to potentially violate their religious beliefs by matching children with same-sex couples in order to receive federal funding.
HHS admitted in a press release that the previous administration’s requirements for receiving federal grants “violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in some circumstances, as evidenced by multiple accommodation requests and lawsuits.”
In June, religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of two faith-based adoption and foster care providers, New Hope Family Services in New York and Catholic Charities West Michigan. ADF argued that by forcing the Christian agencies to place children with unmarried or same-sex couples, the states interfered in the agencies’ free exercise of religion.
While both cases are ongoing, Zach Pruitt, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, celebrated HHS’ decision:
“Every child deserves a chance to be raised in a loving home,” he said. “There are hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system, many of whom are eligible for adoption. Faith-based adoption and foster care providers play an integral role in serving these vulnerable kids. Sadly, the prior administration’s regulation failed to protect all providers and discriminated against faith-based providers simply because of their beliefs about marriage.
“That is not keeping kids first,” he added. “HHS’ final rule to end this discrimination offers hope for children, more options for birth mothers, support for families and increased flexibility for states seeking to alleviate real human need. We commend the Trump administration for protecting a diversity of providers to ensure the greatest number of children find a permanent, loving family.”