September 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A federal court in South Carolina ruled Aug. 10 that the lawsuit Aimee Maddonna v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services can proceed. The case was filed by Americans United on behalf of Aimee Maddonna, a Catholic mother of three from Simpsonville, S.C., who was turned away from helping children in foster care by a taxpayer-funded agency solely because she is Catholic – the “wrong” religion for the evangelical Christian Miracle Hill Ministries.

Instead of denouncing this discriminatory practice, the Trump administration and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) sanctioned the government-funded religious discrimination.

The case was filed against the federal and state governments because it is unconstitutional for government-funded child-placement agencies to discriminate against prospective foster parents based on their religion when those agencies are acting on the government’s behalf. AU argues that South Carolina and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may not provide tax dollars to faith-based child-placement agencies that use discriminatory religious criteria, just as the government cannot discriminate when placing children directly.

The lawsuit also asserts that HHS did not follow proper procedure when it excused South Carolina and its foster care agencies from following federal anti-discrimination law.

In response to the legal order issued by U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Cain, Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Kenneth Upton observed, “Aimee Maddonna and her family wanted to help some of the nearly 5,000 children in foster care in South Carolina. Due to government-funded religious discrimination, she was denied that opportunity. So she’s helping children who have been denied the chance to find loving homes another way – by challenging these unconstitutional state and federal policies that allow taxpayer-funded foster care agencies who are acting on behalf of the state to reject qualified parents because of their religion.”