South Carolina's largest foster care agency, which only places children with Christian families, received a waiver from the Trump administration to continue operating as long as it refers non-Christian parents to other agencies.
Recently, South Carolina requested an exemption to a federal Health and Human Services Department anti-discrimination rule implemented during the Obama administration for Miracle Hill Ministries, which only places children with Christian households.
HHS’ Administration for Children and Families sent a letter to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster Wednesday granting the request by stating that they believed compelling Miracle Hill to follow the anti-discrimination policy would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Miracle Hill’s sincere religious exercise would be substantially burdened by application of the religious nondiscrimination requirement,” read the letter in part. “… subjecting Miracle Hill to that requirement, by denying South Carolina’s exception request, is not the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest on the part of HHS.”
The waiver was granted on the condition that Miracle Hill must refer foster parents who do not share their religious beliefs to another entity within the state’s foster care program.
The ACF letter concluded by noting that the granted exception “does not relieve the SC Foster Care Program of its obligation to comply with any other requirements.”
Terry Schilling, executive director at the socially conservative American Principles Project, released a statement on Wednesday celebrating the decision.
“HHS took an important first step toward reversing that shameful policy by providing the state of South Carolina with an official exception to the regulation, allowing these charities the ability to continue serving poor children who desperately need homes without having to violate key tenets of their faith,” said Schilling.
“We applaud HHS for their effort to protect faith-based foster care providers, and we urge HHS and the Trump administration to continue their efforts to undo this discriminatory regulation in order to preserve the freedom of these providers to continue their important work.”
Rachel Laser, president and CEO of the socially liberal Americans United for Separation of Church and State, blasted the administration’s decision to grant the exception.
“This is yet another example of the Trump administration using religion to advance a regressive political agenda that harms others,” said Laser in a statement released Wednesday.
“While this waiver is specific to South Carolina, it sets a dangerous nationwide precedent that elevates the beliefs of government-funded programs over the best interests of the children in their care.”