Lawsuit Threatens S.C. Foster Children, Religious Liberty
In a new filing, Governor Henry McMaster called upon the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina to protect the state’s right to partner with private faith-based foster care agencies that help place children in foster care in loving homes. The new filing follows a lawsuit brought against state and federal officials by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Rogers v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services et al., for working with religious foster care agencies such as Miracle Hill who serve children in need.
“Over 3,800 of South Carolina’s children are currently in foster care and we need all the help we can get to see that they are placed in loving homes,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “This lawsuit is a shortsighted attack against every South Carolinian’s constitutionally-protected religious liberty. We will continue to fight against any attempt to stop our private partners from being able to help provide these critical services simply because they choose to do so in accordance with their faith.”
In 2018, Governor McMaster issued an Executive Order to protect faith-based organizations and to ensure South Carolina recognizes the constitutionally protected freedoms of these faith-based organizations.
In 2019, the ACLU sued South Carolina and the federal government for allowing Miracle Hill, a religious non-profit that provides foster care support services to prospective foster parents and licensed foster parents, to partner only with families that share its religious beliefs.
The Governor’s Office has joined with Beckett Law, a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, and Nelson Mullins Law Firm to fight the lawsuit.
“Faith-based agencies are effective at placing children in loving homes, and the Supreme Court unanimously protected their rights,” said Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “This attempt to shutter faith-based agencies means fewer choices for foster parents and fewer homes for kids. South Carolina decided it could do better, and it shouldn’t be hauled into court for doing the right thing.”
The South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) currently works directly with families seeking to foster children and youth in crisis situations, serving children and families without regard to religion, race, disability, sex, or sexual orientation. The state also partners with an array of diverse private agencies that help recruit and retain more parents for foster children who need a safe place to live.