Judge rules Christian agency must allow non-Christians families to adopt

Gov. Henry McMaster visited Miracle Hill Ministries in Greenville in August 2018 to award CEO Reid Lehman the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest civilian honor. McMaster has worked to ensure Miracle Hill can continue denying foster care services to same-sex couples and non-Christian families, but a U.S. District Court has ruled the agency can’t deny placements with non-Christian families. File/Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

If an adoption agency doesn’t work with non-Christian adopters, and you are not Christian, you look for a different one, right?

Not if you’re a non-Christian lesbian couple looking for a cause.

And not if you can get one leftist U.S. District Court judge on your side, who can’t wait to deny a Christian organization its right to exercise religious principles.

One such judge dealt a blow last week to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and federal officials alike, declaring that a Greenville, S.C.-based nonprofit must place adopted children with non-Christian families, the Charleston Post and Courier reports.

A dispute between Miracle Hill Ministries and civil rights groups including the ACLU has pulled in McMaster, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and members of the state’s congressional delegation, who say the case is all about religious liberty.

On May 8, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Cain said Miracle Hill’s withholding of an adoption to Eden Rogers and her “wife,” Brandy Welch, violated their 14th amendment rights to equal protection from religious discrimination. The couple’s victory was not total, however, as Cain rejected their claim they were discriminated against based on sexual orientation.

Miracle Hill Ministries serves 218 out of the 3,200 foster care families in the state, and restricts its program to straight Christian families.

In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted a waiver request by McMaster allowing faith-based foster agencies to refuse families who don’t subscribe to their principles.

McMaster, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the state Department of Social Services are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Last spring, Lambda Legal, the South Carolina Equality Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Rogers and Welch, saying that response was discriminatory. “No child in foster care who can’t safely be with their family should be denied the opportunity of a loving and nurturing foster home simply because the prospective parents don’t meet a taxpayer-funded agency’s religious litmus test,” Currey Cook, counsel and director of the Youth in Out-Of-Home Care Project at Lambda Legal, said.

In a statement, Miracle Hill spokeswoman Sandy Furnell said the nonprofit’s methods are not discriminatory.


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