Adoption and foster care agencies that receive federal funding would be able to refuse to serve people based on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity under a new rule proposed by the Trump administration.
The rule would replace a 2016 provision enacted in the final days of the Obama administration that prohibited such agencies from receiving government funding if they discriminate against clients based on these three criteria..
Lifting the provision sets up a culture clash pitting those who champion exemptions for faith-based charities against civil liberties groups who claim religious groups receiving government funding should not exclude anyone.
Federal statutes will continue to prohibit discrimination based on nationality and race, which are enshrined in law.
The proposed rule was set in motion last year when South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked the Department of Health and Human Services to grant faith-based foster care agencies in South Carolina an exemption to the religious discrimination rule in federally funded foster care programs.
Opposition to the new rule was swift.
“On any given day, there are more than 440,000 in the foster care system in the United States,” said Christina Wilson Remlin, lead counsel for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit New York-based advocacy and legal firm. “Given the context of the foster care crisis in placement options, we simply cannot abide any proposal that would enable taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples, Jewish couples, Catholic couples, Muslim couples and any other family system whose religious beliefs do not match those of the child-placing agencies.”
Others, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, applauded the new rule. The Obama provision, they claimed, forced them to shutter foster care and adoption agencies rather than place children with same-sex couples. Catholic teachings prohibit same-sex unions.
The proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register early this week and be followed by a 30-day public comment period.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice