HHS Proposes Rule to Allow Federal Grants for Faith-Based Adoption Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Nov. 1 announced a proposal that will no longer withhold federal grant money from faith-based adoption and foster agencies that refuse to place children in same-sex households due to their Biblical belief in traditional marriage.

In 2016, the Obama administration added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under anti-discrimination regulations. Under these regulations, organizations that do not place children with same-sex couples risk disciplinary action on the grounds that they are discriminating against an individual’s sexual orientation. Additionally, religious groups are required to request a waiver in order to apply for an HHS grant.

President Trump hinted at a new rule earlier this year at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., saying, “My administration is working to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs.”

Franklin Graham expressed his gratitude on Facebook: “Thank you, President Donald J. Trump, for proposing these changes that protect our religious freedoms.”

“The proposed rule represents the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to the rule of law—the Constitution, federal statues and Supreme Court decisions,” HHS said. “These require that the federal government not infringe on religious freedom in its operation of HHS grant programs, and address the impact of regulatory actions on small entities.”

With an estimated 400,000 children in the United States’ foster care system and more than 100,000 eligible for adoption, the Trump administration argues that the new rule is necessary to support the efforts of religious providers who are willing to help vulnerable communities.

“The Trump administration is right to fix misguided Obama-era regulations that threatened both children’s welfare and religious freedom,” said Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “No adoption agency or foster care service should be penalized simply because they believe children deserve both a mom and a dad.”

HHS said on Friday it would begin immediate enforcement of the nondiscrimination change, but many expect the new rule to be challenged in court.