Nov 01, 2019

Americans United for Separation of Church and State condemned the Trump administration’s decision today to propose a nationwide rule that would strip critical protections against discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity across all federally funded programs run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The proposed rule would allow taxpayer-funded social service providers to turn away people in need who rely on programs such as foster care, emergency housing and elder care.

“This proposed rule marks a new low in the Trump administration’s efforts to license discrimination against religious minorities and LGBTQ people. The rule would directly and gravely harm some of our nation’s most vulnerable people – children in foster care, senior citizens, and youth experiencing homelessness,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “When it comes to discrimination based on religion, the Trump administration is saying it’s OK to ignore the Constitution. It’s never OK and we will continue to fight to uphold our core American value of religious freedom.”

The new rule would go far beyond the exemption from federal nondiscrimination laws that HHS granted in January to foster care agencies in South Carolina – the new rule would abolish the nondiscrimination protections that apply agency-wide.

The waiver HHS granted to South Carolina allowed Miracle Hill Ministries, an evangelical Protestant social-services agency funded by the state and federal governments, to turn away Aimee Maddonna, a Catholic mother of three who wanted to help children in foster care, because she is the “wrong” kind of Christian. Americans United filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf in February.

“The Trump administration’s latest proposal would harm countless people across the country like Aimee Maddonna and the children in foster care whom she wanted to help,” said Richard B. Katskee, legal director at Americans United. “Our government should be protecting our nation’s most vulnerable people, not putting them at greater risk. We should be able to count on the administration to protect us from discrimination, not license it.”

Americans United urges Congress to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to end religion-based discrimination in the foster care system, which denies children the loving homes they deserve.

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More information about AU’s lawsuit on behalf of Aimee Maddonna, Maddonna v. HHS, is available here.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.