Donald Trump may grant South Carolina the right to discriminate against atheists, Jews, and all other non-Christian potential parents… all while allowing foster care agencies to retain federal funding.
The state specifically asked the Trump administration if it would allow the state’s faith-based foster groups to exclude parents who don’t share their religious beliefs, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
If granted, the exemption would allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a Protestant social service agency working in the state’s northwest region, to continue receiving federal dollars while “recruiting Christian foster families,” which it has been doing since 1988, according to its website. That discrimination would apply not just to Jewish parents, but also to parents who are Muslim, Catholic, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic or other some other non-Protestant Christian denomination.
Miracle Hill covers Greenville, Pickens and Spartanburg counties, and its foster care services have becoming increasingly in demand as an opioid epidemic has torn through a generation of young parents…
Normally, a state requesting the right to discriminate against non-Christian parents wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows; we’ve heard it before, primarily with Catholic agencies that won’t work with same-sex couples. In states where that kind of bigotry isn’t permitted for agencies receiving taxpayer funding, the agencies have chosen to shut down rather than do what’s best for the children in their care.
Miracle Hill, however, is asking for federal funding and the ability to discriminate. And they may succeed, given that the request was made to Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar. As writers at the Intercept pointed out just last year, the agency has been “quietly taken over by hardline evangelical” Christian activists.
In other words, the government may actually grant the blatantly discriminatory request. And as we’ve already seen, the system in South Carolina doesn’t work all that well.
Miracle Hill has told the local press that while they themselves will not place children with families who don’t meet their standards, they refer them to agencies that will. But as the provider with the region’s highest quality of service, making referrals means sending people to deal directly with the state Department of Social Services, or to agencies in other parts of the state that are several hours away by car.
Allowing this would be an outrage. Even evangelical groups ought to condemn the ability for a faith-based organization to discriminate against Jews. Church/state separation groups, too, while already opposing the selective bigotry, also don’t want these groups to be rewarded with taxpayer funds.
Let’s hope the request never goes any further than this.
(Image via Shutterstock)