Religious Discrimination by Taxpayer-Funded Foster Care Agencies
Our government has a duty to protect vulnerable children in the foster care system. Taxpayer-funded foster care agencies should never be allowed to use religious litmus tests to deny these children loving homes because a qualified parent is the “wrong” religion or an LGBTQ person.
Religious discrimination in the foster care and adoption system is just one piece of a larger issue. The government funds private organizations to deliver health and social services to help people in need. Millions of vulnerable people who rely on these services could face discrimination if the U.S. Supreme Court allows taxpayer-funded service providers to use religious litmus tests. Service providers administering government programs like food banks, homeless shelters, health care and disaster-relief services may also seek to misuse religious freedom to turn away LGBTQ people, religious minorities, the non-religious, unmarried couples and others who do not conform to their religious doctrine.
It’s particularly bad when children's welfare is at stake. The Trump administration and some states are misusing religious freedom to allow faith-based foster care agencies with government contracts to reject qualified families, like Americans United client Aimee Maddonna. A mother of three with a family legacy of helping children in foster care, Aimee was told by a taxpayer-funded foster care agency that she was a perfect fit to volunteer with children -- until she told the agency she’s Catholic. The agency turned her away because she’s not an evangelical Protestant, as the agency requires.
Learn more about Maddonna v. HHS here.
In Philadelphia, city officials learned in March 2018 that two agencies the city had hired to provide foster care services were refusing, based on their religious beliefs, to accept same-sex couples as foster parents. Because the agencies’ actions violated nondiscrimination requirements in the city’s contracts with all foster care agencies, Philadelphia informed the two agencies it would no longer refer children to their care. One agency agreed to comply with the nondiscrimination policy, but the other, Catholic Social Services (CSS), refused and instead sued the city.
Learn more about Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia here.
Religious freedom is a shield that protects all of our rights, not a sword used to harm people. Harming children is exactly what happens if the government allows religion to be a reason for denying kids loving homes.