During his two years in office, President Donald J. Trump has worked tirelessly to protect the rights of people of faith. The most recent example of his efforts came on January 23, 2019 when his administration granted a waiver to a Christian foster-care agency in South Carolina that was previously threatened by an Obama administration rule.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a waiver which allowed Miracle Hill Foster Care, located in Greenville, South Carolina, and other faith-based groups in the state the freedom to use discretion with the kind of foster parents with whom they work.
According to Christianity Today, CT, Miracle Hill recruits one in six of all foster families in South Carolina. But, without the HHS waiver, this Christian organization could have had its license confiscated. An Obama administration rule prevented foster-care agencies receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of religion. The waiver requires Miracle Hill to refer prospective foster parents who aren’t Christians to the Department of Social Services or other agencies.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, requested the waiver in February of last year. In a recent statement, he praised the Trump administration’s decision to grant it.
“By granting this waiver, President Trump and Secretary Azar have shown the entire world that, as Americans, our fundamental right to practice religion, regardless of our faith, will not be in jeopardy under this administration,” he said.
The staff at Miracle Hill were also ecstatic about the development. CEO Reid Lehman remarked that the decision to protect Christian agencies instead of taking their licenses is the “right answer.” Lehman said, it “increases the pool of folks who are able to care for children and it certainly does not diminish the pool for anyone.”
Miracle Hill’s CEO went on to add, “Whether you’re Christian or non-Christian or a person of faith or whatever, if you care about children, we’d love to help you find a place to plug in because children need all the help they can get.”
Lehman thanked McMaster and South Carolina United State Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both Republican, for their help in Washington D.C. Miracle Hill’s director, Brenda Parks stated the exemption “means quite a bit” for the Christian foster-care agency.
“We are certainly grateful to be able to help families now feel like they’re comfortable in parenting these children and we’re so thankful for this to have happened and we give God all the glory,” she said.
Regarding the waiver, Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, policy adviser with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, ERLC, of the Southern Baptist Convention, remarked, “The significance of this waiver must not be lost. Faith-based organizations are a vital part of the community of care our country needs to serve children in crisis.” The ERLC celebrated the exemption as a possible standard for other areas of the country where Christian organizations have faced similar restrictions. However, according to CT, Miracle Hill represents a unique type of religious freedom case.
Christian foster-care and adoption programs, also referred to as child-placing agencies, CPAS, in multiple states have petitioned for the right to refuse placement to homosexual couples due to religious reasons. CT reported in 2017 that South Dakota and Texas protect state funding for Christian agencies. At least five other states permit agencies to enforce faith-based restrictions, but only if they don’t receive federal money. Kelly Rosati, an adoption and foster-care advocate and the mother of four kids adopted from foster-care, said, “There are two separate issues with faith-based CPAs.”
Experienced with this important issue, Rosati went on to say, “No. 1: Can they get government funds in the form of contracts if they discriminate in proscribed ways? No. 2: Will they be shut down and not allowed to even operate (by way of licensure) in their needy communities with privately raised charitable funding?”
The former Focus on the Family vice president remarked, “As I understand it, the exemption from HHS authorized [Miracle Hill] to operate with their limitations while also receiving federal funds. That is noteworthy and unusual.” She said, “I think all faith-based CPAs should be prepared to serve their communities without government funding and must be allowed to do so.”
~ 1776 Christian